The PAAR Center in Porterville, California has been offering a home-like recovery atmosphere for over 40 years. Founded in 1965 as The Porterville Halfway House for Men, The PAAR Center originally only treated five clients at a time. Since then, it has continually expanded into the large operation they are today, with 79 beds available at several homes throughout Porterville, a fairly small city in the San Joaquin Valley. Despite the capacity, however, there are typically no more than 50 men at a time, and as few as five women.
Accommodations and Food
To house the high client volume, The PAAR Center maintains four separate facilities in the residential neighborhood of Porterville, and all are Victorian-style, two-story homes. Rooming situations largely depend on length of stay; in the men’s houses, new arrivals often share a room with three other men, each equipped with twin beds and minimal furniture. After enough time has passed, they graduate to double rooms and even private rooms towards the end of their stay. All bathrooms are shared, with one on each floor. Due to the high disproportion of men to women, the programs are kept entirely separate.
All clients at the PAAR Center are required to cook their own meals and like many other facilities, this is by design. To further encourage independence, residents have a list of weekly chores to complete which include meal duty shifts. The facility buys all the food and creates a menu, but clients have a degree of freedom in putting personal touches on suggested menu items.
Treatment and Staff
Treatment at the PAAR Center is 12-step oriented, which is no surprise given its old-school origins. The suggested length of stay is 90 days and all of them start early, with clients expected to be awake with beds made and weekly chores (dusting, vacuuming, cooking breakfast) finished by 7 am. After a shared breakfast, a prayer and meditation session is held. At 9 am, the day begins with a series of educational meetings and group counseling. There’s a 12-step meeting during this time as well, and outsiders from the community are welcome to attend. After a break for lunch at noon, there is another group session until 2 pm. After some brief recreation comes free time from 3 to 5 pm. Next is dinner and an off-site trip to another evening 12-step meeting. There’s another period of free time before bed as well.
There are detox services offered at the PAAR Center, but this is not a medical detox. Rather, clients are housed in a separate facility (a carriage house on the grounds) for three to five days while the process occurs. Residents are required to participate in the detox process if they come to the PAAR Center in the throes of active addiction. They’ll be assisted if they need medical or psychiatric visits in the community, but the PAAR Center does not employ a medical staff. Instead, they are comprised of six certified counselors and a large staff of house managers and volunteers training to receive future certification.
The PAAR Center definitely makes an attempt to provide daily recreation. Each day between 2 to 3 pm, residents take a trip to the local park where they can engage in games of basketball, tennis and baseball. There is also a set of weights on the premises. Still, aside from these few options, field trips are not a major part of the PAAR Center experience. There are televisions in each of the houses, but the hours of use are regulated so to not distract from the daily recovery work.
Residents must earn certain privileges through length of stay and good behavior. For their first 21 days, they are not allowed to leave the grounds at any time, except during the supervised park trips. They also cannot visit with family, have a cell phone or even make calls on the house line. After these initial weeks, they can begin to host family members (3 to 5 pm each day is set aside for potential family sessions), use their cellphones and go off-site for trip downtown.
Clients are also permitted to visit their family off-site, but only once the PAAR Center confirms that the family members have made an effort to attend Alanon meetings during the resident’s stay—this is designed as a precaution to not send clients out into a triggering environment. It’s also worth noting that none of these privileges apply to the 9 to 3 pm period of the day, where personal recovery is the one and only focus.
Given its legacy, extensive programming and home-like setting, the PAAR Center has many features that might make it a desirable. All of this is without even considering its cost, which is among the lowest of any serious facility of its kind. There’s much to be said about the organized, no-nonsense approach offered at the PAAR Center.
The PAAR Center
184 W Belleview Ave
Porterville, CA 93257
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