SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The Spartanburg Homeless Court will be held at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The court is the first and only homeless court in the Upstate, granted by Order of the Supreme Court of South Carolina as an alternative court for South Carolina residents. The Order grants the City of Spartanburg Municipal Court with the authority to preside over cases for eligible Homeless Court participants.
The purpose of the court is to encourage eligible participants to complete treatment and rehabilitation programs in exchange for the dismissal of fines associated with a criminal offense and, in some cases, the dismissal of an offense.
The charges are limited to misdemeanors and have other limitations for those who are currently homeless or were homeless at the time of their criminal offense.
The solicitor’s office will consider any offense of eligible participants that occurs in the City of Spartanburg and carries a penalty of no more than 30 days, except for criminal domestic violence and driving under influence offenses.
The Solicitor’s Office will consider bench warrants resulting from any offense that occurs in the City of Spartanburg and carries a penalty of no more than 30 days, except for bench warrants for criminal domestic violence, third degree assault and battery and driving under the influence.
The City of Spartanburg received approval from the Supreme Court of South Carolina to create this homeless court in September.
Any eligible participant must be able to prove to the Solicitor’s Office that they are receiving treatment or have received treatment and are transitioning out of a homeless lifestyle. After being approved, an applicant will be assigned an attorney to help manage the case pro bono.
The Homeless Court is a formal proceeding with a judge, solicitor, an attorney for the Homeless Court participant, bailiff, treatment providers, and court administration, held outside of a traditional court room to make participants feel comfortable.
Municipal Judge Erika Mcjimpsey says she wanted to create the court to help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in Spartanburg.
Committee members include Barry Barnette, the solicitor; Clay Allen, the public defender; Alonzo Thompson, Chief of the Spartanburg City Police Department; and local homeless shelter directors, local homeless advocates, and local service providers, among others.
The committee met approximately five times in various places in Spartanburg. During those meetings, they conducted one hour of continuing legal education on homeless courts for members of the Spartanburg Bar and made site visits to the original South Carolina Homeless Court in Columbia.
Members also attended training sessions provided by trainers from the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s office, and the Fifth Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s office.
In July, the American Bar Association dispatched National Homeless Court Consultant Steve Binder of San Diego, who provided part of that training to the local participants in Spartanburg.