The Mainstream Resources subcommittee of the Jersey City/Hudson Continuum of Care has begun to move forward on developing a Homeless Court Program in Hudson County. The development of such a program is included as an action step in the ten year plan to end chronic homelessness, and the group has begun progress sooner than was expected. This initiative is the result of the efforts of many organizations includng Monarch Housing’s Ending Homelessness Team.
In early December the group was able to discuss the development of the San Diego Homeless Court program with Steve Binder, the attorney from the San Diego Public Defender’s office who initiated the program there, and who has now become the American Bar Association’s representative on the issue. Mr. Binder encouraged the group to take action as soon as possible, while giving them information on what there next steps should be as they began to develop a homeless court program unique to Hudson County.
Based on that conversation the subcommittee realized the importance of ensuring shelter director’s and local providers’ support for such a program, as well as, gauging the need for this type of program. Upon speaking with shelter directors and other providers, support for this type of program was overwhelming. The group then secured a meeting with Jersey City municipal judges, and representatives from the Prosecutor’s and Public Defender’s office in May, 2007.
With the assistance of a representative from Legal Services the subcommittee presented information on the homeless court program and suggested that such a program be implemented in Jersey City/Hudson County. The proposal was well received and the subcommittee will now be working with representatives from the Jersey City Municipal court to develop an appropriate Homeless Court program for the area, and also to involve additional municipalities in Hudson County. Short term action on this issue will include identifying a ‘Homeless Liaison’ at the court to present offenders with alternate sentencing options (i.e. placement into job skills training or substance abuse counseling programs, and other programs offered by sheltering facilities).