Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Boston's Homeless Court
The Boston judicial system has begun to address homelessness in an innovative way, establishing a Homeless Court. Launched in 2010, the Boston Homeless Court aims to serve the needs of homeless defendants and to stop the pattern of individuals cycling through the justice system for nonviolent offenses. One way that homeless individuals end up in the system repeatedly is by being held in contempt for failing to respond to a summons, which they did not receive due to living on the streets. The court connects defendants with the services they need, provided they agree to a yearlong commitment with the Court. Services offered include mental health and substance abuse counseling, hospital referrals where necessary, shelter beds, tutoring and GED prep. All defendants are required to work on their job skills or learn new ones. In exchange for this commitment, defendants who complete the program may have their fines forgiven, minor records wiped clean and their cases dismissed - hopefully encouraging their likelihood of success with improving their lives. It is a small program, completing 19 defendants since early 2011, and with 33 pending cases currently in the system. It will be interesting to follow the progress of this court, and its unique approach to addressing homelessness in the busy city of Boston.
BCS handles cases for many defendants who are homeless. We offer them immediate clinical consultation and referrals to a shelter and/or drop-in center as needed.
You can read more about the Boston Homeless Court in the full article here: Boston Globe