'Homeless court' a chance to wipe record clean

March 11, 2011

During the past two years, Homeward Pikes Peak has invited the area’s homeless people to City Auditorium to connect with an array of social services and give them an incentive to get off this streets.

For this year’s Project Connect, Homeward Pikes Peak is upping the ante with what organizer Bob Holmes is calling a “homeless court.” Patterned after what are called diversion courts, the homeless court will allow homeless people facing nonviolent misdemeanor charges to have the charges cleared — provided they agree to get into case management.

“This is not a free ride for people,” Holmes said. “This is quid pro quo.”

Joining the 40 or so social service agency representatives at Wednesday’s event will be a magistrate and judge who will have the authority to offer the deal. The person must show up at court two days later to receive a continuance, then return to court within 60 days with a case manager. Both the district attorney’s office and public defender’s office will be involved.

“The goal is to not just grant a ‘freebie’ on an active warrant, but to really help people connect to a service,” said Magistrate Lisa Kirkman, who runs another diversion program, Drug Court, and helped Holmes set up the program for Project Connect.

Whether it becomes a permanent program remains to be seen.

“That’ up to Lisa and her fellow magistrates and judges and the DA,” Holmes said. “I think we’ll have to do an assessment after it’s over, and look at how many people participated and what the success was, and see if we want to have it more often.”

But he said the program would save taxpayers money by reducing jail time and eliminating manpower it takes to process an open warrant and jail booking.

“This time can then be used for other, more serious, police work,” Holmes said.

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