SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In an effort to help homeless individuals end a cycle of legal issues, a local non-profit is looking for ways to revive a once-successful city program.
Community Partnership of the Ozarks is looking for ways to bring Homeless Court back to Springfield.
Homeless Court would work with individuals to find alternative ways of working off tickets instead of giving jail time for fines they can’t pay.
“By having his by a community-based initiative, you’re reducing hours in court, you’re reducing costs associated there. It really is just holistically it benefits the entire community,” said Adam Bodendieck with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
The organization says getting Springfield homeless court up and running again will require cooperation from the city, the court, and others who make up the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness.
Bodendieck says it would be a voluntary program, using some elements of a treatment court to set and meet goals. In return, fines could be waived or reduced.
“So you’re looking at positive behaviors, you’re looking at steps that individuals are taking. I think that’s a lot more meaningful than saying okay, no you owe us $300,” said Bodendieck.
He says funding would not be an issue, stating the program would essentially cost nothing.
Community Partnership says any costs associated with providing transportation or food at the meeting would be minimal.
Bodendieck says one challenge will be a judge willing to put the homeless court on their calendar each month.
Springfield homeless court was first established in 2015 but ended about a year later when a then-Municipal Judge Becky Borthwick got moved up to the Greene County Circuit Court.
“The most frequent ticket is trespassing. They’re not trespassing and stealing tickets, they are mostly people who are trying to find a place to stay for the night,” Judge Borthwick told KOLR 10 News in 2015.
Borthwick also stated she preferred holding sessions outside of a courtroom.
“We take the stigma of the courthouse away. We sit together all as a group. I have a chance to really get to know people and know them well.”
“This gets everybody together and really working collaboratively towards reducing those barriers, clearing up some of these things, so that progress can be made,” adds Bodendieck on Friday.
Community partnership says it’s working with the American Bar Association to create a concrete plan.
Officials with the City of Springfield say they’re considering ways to bring the program back, but no decisions have been made yet.
More information on homeless court from the American Bar Association can be found here.