Homeless people may have marks on their criminal records that can hinder them from rebuilding their lives.
Stanislaus County will team with the Superior Court on a Homeless Court Program that will assist them with clearing court cases, so they are not barred from housing and other community services.
Two “navigator” staff members will work out of a homeless services access center set to open in August at 825 12th St., next to the downtown Modesto jail.
The staff will connect homeless people with court resources and prepare them for court dates for resolving minor criminal cases, infractions and fines. Some may need to complete terms of probation before gaining access to self-help programs, housing and employment.
The Judicial Council of California awarded the Superior Court a $593,000 grant for running the Homeless Court for almost three years. A proposed agreement between the Superior Court and the county would run from Aug. 1 to June 30, 2020.
A judge will preside over Homeless Court once a month. Stanislaus County has 1,661 people who are homeless, according to a two-day count in January.
The program will work toward the goals of a Focus on Prevention initiative that aims to reduce homelessness within the county. The Outreach and Engagement Center on 12th Street will be a one-stop center that includes the court program, county social services, mental health and a housing assessment team.
The staff won’t wait for people to come into the center, but will coordinate with outreach teams to contact people on the streets and in parks. According to a proposed agreement, the outreach and engagement program will provide transportation, case management, screening and referrals to support services and housing programs.
Kevin Carroll, executive director of Modesto Gospel Mission, said a criminal background is sometimes a barrier to employment for homeless people who use the mission. Carroll, a former probation officer, said some homeless courts in other counties, in partnership with nonprofit groups, assign people to community service tasks to work off citations.
“It helps them clean up their mistakes of the past,” said Carroll, who’s not involved with the new Homeless Court program here. “I hope it helps people and those who need to be accountable for their actions.”
Officials have said that Homeless Court is not for people who have serious criminal records.
The county hopes the court program will help reduce the homeless population and the length of time people are homeless; increase access to resources; improve safety in parks and neighborhoods; and decrease anti-social behavior in public.
Other goals are to improve clearance rates in the court and reduce the backlog of criminal cases.
The county Board of Supervisors could approve an agreement for running the Homeless Court Program when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Tenth Street Place.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16