SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The City of Spartanburg is offering a second chance to a vulnerable population through their Homeless Court program.
Officials say Monday was the first time Homeless Court has been held in the community since COVID-19 forced the sessions to take place inside a courtroom. Now, it’s taking place at the Spartanburg Opportunity Center.
The program is trying to give people experiencing homelessness in the City of Spartanburg a second chance.
“Give individuals access to justice in a non-traditional way and in a way that is more restorative and is more humane for those that qualify for the program,” said Judge Erika McJimpsey.
McJimpsey said the program was started in 2019 and is currently the only homeless court in the Upstate.
“We service the municipality of Spartanburg, so the offenses, the charges have to have taken place within the city limits of Spartanburg,” she said.
To be considered for this program, the person must have experienced homelessness either now or in the past or must be at risk of becoming homeless.
“It gives them an opportunity to get the charges dropped and complete a treatment plan and it’s a way for us to not cycle homeless folks through our judicial system and give them a path out,” said Chris George with the city of Spartanburg.
George said not every charge qualifies for this program.
“These are not violent crimes, this is typically the types of things we often see with homeless folks, minor offenses,” said George.
“Shoplifting offenses, trespassing, public drunk, public disorderly conduct. Those are generally the types of charges that the homeless members of our community are committing,” said Judge McJimpsey.
Here’s how it works:
The program receives referrals through the court or people can file applications. There’s a screening process.
If accepted, they are assigned a pro-bono attorney. They are then connected with service providers.
“These service providers do an intake and determine the root cause of the homeless status. Whether it’s alcohol, it’s drugs, if it’s lack of employability, domestic violence, whatever it is,” said Judge McJimpsey.
The individual is put in touch with existing resources and programs to connect them with sustainable housing.
“Once they successfully meet their treatment goals, their attorney, as well as the solicitor’s office, make a recommendation in regard to the case being dismissed,” said Judge McJimpsey.
She said they can get their cases dismissed, and a lot of times, off their criminal history.
The court is held every month, or every other month. The next one is scheduled for August.
For more on the program, click here.