Homeless Court

Is it a crime to be homeless?
  • Afraid to go to court?
  • Tired of being thrown in jail?
  • Worried about warrants?
  • Looking to resolve outstanding misdemeanor cases?
  • What is Homeless Court?

  • The Homeless Court Program (HCP) gives homeless people access to court.
  • Local shelters host a special court session for misdemeanor cases.
  • Judges give court sentences for program activities in which participants are already involved.
"Bringing the law to the streets, the court to shelters, and the homeless back into society"

The HCP helps you move form the streets through a shelter program to self-sufficiency.
  • You stand before the court with advocacy letters and certificates, proof of your activities, accomplishments, and aspirations
  • The court reviews this documentation
  • Life-skills
  • Chemical dependency or AA/NA meetings
  • Computer training or literacy classes
  • Training or searching for employment
  • Counseling or volunteer work
Alternative Sentencing: The HCP sentences you to activities in the shelter program. This replaces the traditional court sentence options of fines, public work service and custody.

You sign up for court at the shelter. There is four-week, four-step process from sign-up to court hearing.
  • WEEK ONE: The program submits to the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) the list of participants who have requested court access. The OPD delivers the list to the court and prosecution.
  • WEEK TWO: The court and prosecution prepare cases on the list for the next scheduled Homeless Court at the shelter.
  • WEEK THREE: The assigned defense attorney meets with you one week before the court hearing to review and prepare the cases.
  • WEEK FOUR: Court personnel arrive at the shelter and hear your case.
At the conclusion of the first Stand Down in 1988, 116 of 500 homeless veterans stated that their greatest need was to resolve outstanding bench warrants. The next year the San Diego Superior Court set up a special court at Stand Down. The court resolved 4,895 cases between 1989 and 1992 for 942 homeless veterans through Stand Down. Because of the increased demand for the HCP, it has expanded from annual, to quarterly, and now, monthly sessions.

"If you're living in a shelter, or working with a rehabilitation agency you can approach the court and appeal for justice."

Sign Up:
Ask your shelter representative how you can sign up to appear at Homeless Court.

The HCP hearings alternate between:
  • Veterans Village of San Diego
  • New Resolve
  • St. Vincent de Paul residential facilities
Shelters include, but are not limited to
  • San Diego Rescue Mission
  • Salvation Army,
  • Vet Center
  • Episcopal Community Services/Friend to Friend
The HCP cannot resolve felony cases, cases outside the City of San Diego, or parking tickets. However, attorneys can provide general information and will discuss these matters with you.

These 12 steps can lead you from the threat of jail to a new home.
  • Sign up for the Homeless Court in the shelter and set a date to hear your case
  • Meet with your defense attorney from the Law Offices of the Public Defender
  • The court staff and prosecution team review your records and prepare cases for court
  • Create a life plan and work a program for rehabilitation, counseling, recovery, life skills or employment training
  • Meet with your caseworker to prepare all necessary documents and letters of support for your hearing at the Homeless Court held in the shelter
  • Your defense attorney will negotiate, on your behalf, with the prosecutor, before the hearing
  • Attend the Homeless Court and consult with your defense attorney. Bring evidence of your accomplishments and other important documents
  • The judge comes to the shelter, where the prosecution and defense present your case
  • Approach the bench, face the judge, confront your past and look to the future
  • If you accept responsibility for the offense, the court offers you an alternative sentence to complete your rehabilitation program.
  • Once your case is resolved, another hurdle has been cleared
  • You are free to follow the steps of your life plan, and move toward a new home in the community