• March 29, 2024

Legal Help for People Experiencing Homelessness

Legal Help for People Experiencing Homelessness

Legal Help for People Experiencing Homelessness 150 150 CVillacorte

A new Community Outreach Court in Skid Row will help people experiencing homelessness resolve legal matters that can block access to housing, jobs and social services.

“Today we celebrate the launch of the Community Outreach Court. This comes out of years of prior work listening to our houseless neighbors, understanding the challenges they face, and wanting to lift every barrier and obstacle out of the way so they can get an equitable chance to do better and more,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “This is a great example of what happens when there is teamwork, collaboration, and a unified goal between community and government to increase access to justice for all.”

The Los Angeles County Office of the Public Defender launched the program in partnership with the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and Mayor Karen Bass’ Office of Community Safety. The court’s primary objective is to alleviate the complexities of navigating the criminal legal system and, by doing so, enable people to access opportunities intended to help them get off the streets and potentially start over. Key services provided by the court include clearing eligible bench warrants, expunging eligible convictions, resolving eligible misdemeanor cases and citations, addressing outstanding fines and fees, and connecting participants with reentry and job opportunities.

“As public defenders, we understand that housing instability further complicates existing legal challenges for our most vulnerable neighbors. Community Outreach Court builds on our commitment to addressing systemic barriers and ensuring equitable access to justice,” said LA County Public Defender Ricardo D. Garcia. “By offering legal assistance and facilitating connections to essential community-based services, we’re providing the necessary tools to help individuals rebuild their lives with the goal of preventing further contact with the criminal legal system. This is especially true for people who otherwise do not have the means to come to a court building to request assistance.”

The court convenes every third Thursday of the month at the Skid Row Community Refresh Spot, a 24/7 public safe space offering essential amenities such as showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, phone charging, drinking water, access to social services, and pet supplies. During a three-month pilot phase, the court successfully helped more than 90 people experiencing homelessness with record clearance, ticket relief, warrant resolution, and housing assistance. More information can be found at pubdef.lacounty.gov/COC.

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