Flint Announces Creation of the Flint Genesee Homeless Court Program to Combat Homelessness


 The Center for Civil Justice (CCJ) is pleased to announce that the Flint Genesee Homeless Court Program is ready to launch. The Homeless Court Program helps people experiencing homelessness reconcile their offenses with accomplishments in program activities to resolve low-level misdemeanor offenses, traffic fines and warrants to remove legal barriers to housing and self-sufficiency.

In 2019, CCJ, with the assistance of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, held a forum to introduce the idea and explore the interest and need from the community for a homeless court program. “From the beginning, the response from all of the partners was positive and we immediately started the planning process,” said Kelly Bidelman, Executive Director of CCJ. “Steve Binder, the founder of homeless court and ABA Liaison, and Jayesh Patel, founder of Detroit’s homeless court program, Street Outreach Court Detroit, were instrumental in sharing best practices, forms and documents—anything we needed. Judges Larry Williams and Kristina Robinson Garrett invited folks from our community to observe Street Outreach Court Detroit and offered their assistance as well.”

The Program partners include the 67th District Court, the Genesee County Prosecutor, Sheriff and Commission, the City of Flint Law Department, various parking enforcement agencies, Flint/Genesee Continuum of Care and its many shelters and service agencies.

Essence Wilson, Chair of the Flint/Genesee Continuum of Care, explained “The shelters work with each guest on an individualized action plan to obtain the skills and support they need to access permanent housing. Those working on treatment-oriented diversionary activities are recognized for their hard work, transformation and overcoming hardships with a referral to the program.”

67th District Court Judge G. David Guinn is supportive of the program. “Treatment-oriented diversion programs work as evidenced by the many specialty courts that we have in Genesee County.” David Leyton, Genesee County Prosecutor, agreed and added that “We anticipate being able to resolve charges that people experiencing homelessness face just because they are living on the streets, such as trespassing, public consumption of alcohol or sleeping in a doorway. We can replace jail time and fines with participation in life skills or job training.”

Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson who recently made national news for removing his riot gear and walking with Flint protestors in a peaceful march for racial justice, is on board. He cites the potential savings for the community. “If someone is arrested, there are costs for the arrest, warrant, jail time and police officer time. For a person experiencing homelessness with no ability to pay, it doesn’t make sense to take a hardline approach.”

Flint’s program will be unique to its counterparts across the country. When Tony McDowell, the Genesee County Deputy Friend of the Court, heard about the program, he offered to provide relief of state-owed child support arrearages and resolving bench warrants for participants. Tony said that “by helping waive state owed arrears for those with no ability to pay and resolving warrants, we hope to be able to help families have one less hurdle and make it a little easier for them to succeed.”

The Flint Genesee Homeless Court Program is another tool that can be used to combat homelessness in the community.

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Center for Civil Justice hyperlink to: https://ccj-mi.org advocates for rights of people experiencing poverty in Michigan. CCJ strives to achieve systemic change that improves the lives of low-income Michigan residents and secure greater access to basic needs, including food and nutrition, healthcare and housing.

Flint/Genesee Continuum of Care [hyperlink to: https://www.metrocommunitydevelopment.com/copy-of-community is a federally mandated body of homeless service providers. The CoC works in partnership with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) towards the common goal to end homelessness in the U.S.
67th District Court hyperlink to: https://www.67 thdc.com/ is a limited jurisdiction court, authorized under state statute, with jurisdiction over Genesee County, including the City of Flint.

Genesee County Prosecutor [hyperlink to: https://www.co. genesee.mi.us/prosecutor.htm is established according to the Michigan Constitution and is responsible for the prosecution of violations of state criminal law in the County. The Prosecutor is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County and represents the County in all criminal matters before the District, Circuit, Probate, Appellate and Supreme Courts, as well as Federal Courts, where the County is a party or has interests.

Genesee County Sheriff [hyperlink to: https://www.gcsomichigan.com/ has a mission to improve the quality of life in Genesee County by working together with all citizens to preserve life, maintain human rights, protect property and promote public safety.


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