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This manual documents San Diego's successful Homeless Court Program, an innovative response to addressing the legal problems of people experiencing homelessness. This publication explains how the concept for San Diego's program developed and how it has evolved into a model program replicated by other jurisdictions. The manual serves as a how-to guide for people interested in creating similar programs in their communities. The Homeless Court Program operates on a monthly basis at two of San Diego's largest shelters. A special voluntary court session is convened at the shelter. A judge, clerk, public defender and prosecutor come to the shelter to provide greater access to justice to people who are homeless with outstanding criminal misdemeanor warrants. The philosophy behind this unique program is rehabilitative rather than punitive, as no one is taken into custody. The key players involved in the program realize that outstanding criminal warrants often preclude people who are homeless from accessing vital services such as employment, housing, public benefits, and treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse problems. As such, the court seeks to address the legal problems of the homeless participants as well as linking them with appropriate services and treatment programs. (Authors)
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services