MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Some homeless in Myrtle Beach might have a second chance to turn their lives around thanks to the city’s new Homeless Court.
The Homeless Court will allow repeat offenders to participate in a diversion program instead of jail time or paying a fine.
“This is a true fresh start and clean slate,” Kathy Jenkins, executive director of New Directions said.
Jenkins says it gives the homeless a second chance for those who commit petty crimes.
“We’re talking crimes that we generally see among the homeless population. We’re talking minor shoplifting, we’re talking public intoxication, and we’re talking homeless clients who are so caught in the cycle of, well what is it gonna hurt? I’m never gonna get past this anyway,” Jenkins said.
The City of Myrtle Beach partnered with two local homeless organizations, New Directions and ECHO, to bring a Homeless Court to the city.
“They’re caught in a cycle of charges, they don’t know how to get out of it, they’re unable to move forward, they can’t get a job, and there’s something at the root of the reason that they continue to be arrested and they continue to have these things add up on their records,” Jenkins said.
After years of work and approval from the South Carolina Supreme Court, the city’s first session of Homeless Court took place last Wednesday.
Its goal is to help the homeless avoid jail time and fines by allowing them to participate in a diversion program instead.
The programs include addiction recovery and courses about coping skills, among other topics.
Judge Jennifer Wilson hopes Homeless Court will give repeat offenders a second chance to turn their lives around.
“The purpose of the homeless court is to actually address the underlying issues of homelessness, because not everyone’s there because they’re lazy or they don’t want to work. This is a way of helping people get back on their feet. That benefits the court, the city and the community,” Wilson said.
The City of Myrtle Beach says the Homeless Court comes at no additional cost to the taxpayers since it uses existing resources.
Myrtle Beach is the third city in South Carolina to get a Homeless Court, behind Charleston and Columbia.