Homeless people or those who are at risk of losing their homes can clear up their outstanding warrants or have their minor misdemeanor or non-violent cases disposed of in the Homeless Court, the first and only one of its kind in Massachusetts.\n\nThe Homeless Court is presided over by First Justice Kathleen Coffey of Boston Municipal Court (BMC) \u2013 West Roxbury. The court is a quilt of resources stitched together by collaborative agencies which include the BMC-West Roxbury Probation Department, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley\u0027s Office, the Clerk\u0027s Office, the CPCS (Committee for Public Counsel Services), the Men\u0027s Stabilization Unit at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, and the the Pine Street Inn.\n\nThe court meets once every two months at \u00a0Shattuck Hospital where one to five cases are heard per session. Probation Officer David Giacalone screens candidates for the program who have open probation warrants. District Attorney Dan Conley\u0027s Office and attorneys from the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) conduct screens of individuals who have straight warrants or default warrants on untried matters, according to Judge Coffey. Shattuck Hospital social worker works with the candidates to ensure that they have completed the typically 28-day drug treatment. Upon completion of treatment, the social worker writes a \u201cLetter of Advocacy\u201d to support their appearance before the Homeless Court.\n\n\u201cThe District Attorney\u0027s Officer decides whether or not they want to prosecute the defendant for the open charge or whether a dismissal of the case is appropriate because the charges are minor and the defendant \u00a0is in substance abuse treatment,\u201d said Judge Coffey.\n\nDuring the off months, all of the partners meet as a group to review which approaches have been successful, explore possible enhancements to the court, discuss cases, and \u00a0ways to assist more people.\n\nJudge Coffey established the Homeless Court in December 2010 as a pilot project and modeled it after the more than 20 year-old Homeless Court in San Diego, California which was first started at a Veteran\u0027s Shelter. The brainchild of Boston\u0027s Homeless Court, according to Judge Coffey, is retired Judge Maurice Richardson who traveled to California to get a first-hand look at the California Court. There are also Homeless Courts in Atlanta, Georgia and New York City.\n\n\u201cRetired Judge Maurice Richardson saw the court in operation and found it applicable and useful for the City of Boston,\u201d said Judge Coffey. \u201cThe whole point is for the court to be more accessible and responsive to homeless people and \u00a0those at risk of being homeless.\u201d\n\nShe added, \u201cThe court facilitates the removal of warrants and disposal of open cases. Many of their offenses include common nuisance offenses such as being a disorderly person, trespassing, and sleeping outdoors. Because they do not have a home, they may have poor record keeping and they do not show up in court. The cases and outstanding warrants interfere with their ability to find housing and receive government benefits.\u201d\n\nThe clearing of cases enhances the case management in the court system, according to Judge Coffey.\n\nProbation Officer Giacalone determines whether an offender, who has open probation warrants, is an \u201cappropriate candidate\u201d for the program which requires that the offender has participated in substance abuse treatment. Giacalone pulls the records of the offenders, contacts the supervising Probation Officers at each of the courts where an offender\u0027s case originates from, and gathers information on the offender. He also ascertains whether substance abuse treatment is an underlying matter.\n\n\u201cThe program helps people get back on track. It is very productive and beneficial. If they are engaged in treatment, they get involved with the program and have a better life in the future. Some people are having a very difficult time. With all the factors combined\u2014substance abuse, homelessness, mental illness\u2014they might not use their best judgment. With a clear record, they may get housing, treatment, benefits, and an opportunity to address their court cases,\u201d said Giacalone.\n\n\u201cNot all cases are appropriate. For example, outstanding restitution and indecent assault would not be heard in the Homeless Court,\u201d said Judge Coffey.\n\nThe Homeless Court will celebrate its second anniversary in December and Coffey is pleased with its progress.\n\n\u201cMy expectations have been met for the most part. We were hoping that it would allow people to remove their defaults and have a new start. It has been very humbling to hear about people who have overcome their addictions,\u201d she said.\n\nGerald Stewart, Suffolk County Second Assistant District Attorney said of the program, \u201cHomeless Court \u00a0is designed to help the most vulnerable population and to reduce the legal barriers they face which can prevent their full integration into society. It is also a hugely productive partnership between the Court, the Office of the District Attorney, CPCS, the Probation Department, and the administration and treatment providers at the Shattuck Hospital.\u201d\n\nThe Homeless Court has been endorsed by Boston Municipal Court Chief Justice Charles Johnson as well as Acting Commissioner of Probation Ronald P. Corbett Jr.\n\n\u201cThis specialized session is designed to assist the Department in fulfilling its mission of service and equal access to justice for all of Boston\u0027s citizens. We hope that West Roxbury\u0027s service to our homeless population can be duplicated throughout the Department,\u201d said Chief Justice Johnson.\n\n\u201cHomelessness and being at the risk of becoming homeless are challenges many probationers are facing. These living conditions create a huge barrier to their success in creating a better life for themselves. The Homeless Court is addressing these challenges and helping people get back on their feet,\u201d said Commissioner Corbett.\n\nShattuck Hospital Lead Social Worker Patricia Cahill said of the program, \u201cIt \u0027s been a great experience working with the judge, probation, District Attorney, and CPCS-partnering with these agencies to solve this problem.\u201d\n\nJudge Coffey said the partnership is the reason for the Homeless Court\u0027s success.\n\n\u201cI am pleased with the spirit of collegiality among the different entities who have historically not worked together in the past. It is essential that we have this collaboration because one entity cannot do this by itself. It is the pooling of resources that has contributed to the administration of justice.\u201d\n\nThe First Justice would like to see an expansion of the Homeless Court to include other community partners such as the Veteran\u0027s Hospital and St. Francis House. She also envisions the start of Homeless Courts in other regions of the state.\n\n\u201cThe Homeless Court has allowed us to look at old problems in new ways,\u201d said Coffey.