Lubbock Municipal Court Partners With Local Homeless Advocacy for 'Homeless Court'

LUBBOCK, TX (NEWS RELEASE) - Family Promise of Lubbock and the City of Lubbock Municipal Court announce the creation of Homeless Court.  The purpose of Homeless Court is to work with people who are ready to re-enter the system and get back to jobs and housing. The new program, assists homeless defendants who wish to resolve outstanding Class C misdemeanor offenses and warrants. Homeless Court is a special court program for homeless defendants who have resided in a homeless shelter or counseling program for at least 15 days. The Homeless Court program builds on partnerships between the court, local shelters and service agencies, and the city prosecutor.  The court works to resolve the problems that homelessness represents with practical solutions. Initial referrals to Homeless Court originate with case managers working with clients in their homeless shelters and service agencies. The prosecution may review the cases before the court hearing.. The program was modeled on the first homeless court program launched in San Diego in 1989. Lubbock’s program was created through a collaboration of the Lubbock Municipal Court, Family Promise of Lubbock and the city’s Prosecutor’s Office. 

“Helping out the indigent and homeless has gotten to be a passion for me, said Jorge Hernandez, presiding judge of Lubbock’s Municipal court,”When Mr. Morris presented the Homeless Court idea to me, it fit perfectly into my vision for indigent court and I immediately said ‘Let’s do it.’ The goal of the City of Lubbock Municipal Court Homeless Court is to remove warrants and settle fines for defendants who are homeless and who are making a positive effort to move forward and leave homelessness. This is accomplished by our Court staff who offer alternative sentencing, including community service hours, to resolve outstanding municipal fines and fees.”

Unpaid fines for infractions often are noted on background checks and prevent homeless people from securing jobs and housing. “Family Promise created the Lubbock version of Homeless Court because we saw many individuals experiencing homeless who were held back from achieving independence because of the huge fines and warrants that they accumulated years prior,” said Doug Morris, Executive Director of Family Promise.  “I am grateful for Judge Hernandez’s vision and passion and for the invaluable service we will provide to the homeless of our community regardless of which agency is serving them. “

Homeless participants voluntarily sign up for the Homeless Court and must be recommended through their chosen homeless shelter or service agency. Once they get off the street and into a program at a shelter or service provider, these defendants can begin taking steps to resolve their problems. The homeless service provider introduces the participant to Homeless Court explaining it purpose, entry criteria and step by step process. A hearing at a special court session is an opportunity for many to resolve these minor offenses and begin again with a clean slate.

Although Homeless Court in Lubbock was created by Family Promise, homeless shelters throughout Lubbock can participate in this program. These agencies provide programs to clients that address issues such as recovery, education, employment, healthcare and housing. Upon successful participation in a program, a participant will be referred through case management to Homeless Court. .Judge Hernandez reviews the defendant’s offenses, along with the case manager’s recommendation for program participation and then sentences the individual. Most often the judge assigns said defendant to community service at the homeless service provider where they are currently residing or to a program recommended by the service provider that best meets the needs of the defendant.  The philosophy of the program is rehabilitative rather than punitive.

“Homeless Court” says Morris,  “gives people a chance to resolve a criminal matter, better themselves,  and an opportunity to start over with a clean slate. “

City of Lubbock Municipal Court Mission Statement: It is the responsibility of this department to bring to a satisfactory conclusion a legal process that begins with the enactment of State laws and City ordinances, continues with the filing of charges by the City's law and codes enforcement personnel, and concludes when the charges are disposed of by either the payment of a fine or the dismissal of the charges. 

Family Promise of Lubbock, provides temporary shelter, meals, individualized case management and transportation to families with children seeking to regain their independence and leave homelessness forever.

(News release from Family Promise of Lubbock)

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