Homeless Neighborhood Court Pilot Program

HNHC Dan Walker

Homeless Neighborhood Court graduate Dan Walker preparing meals for the homeless at Fourth and Hope, where he is currently employed.

“Homelessness is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in a constructive fashion, and we are committed to being part of the solution. The endless cycle of arrests and jail sentences has clearly failed. It is time for a new approach that focuses on the causes of homelessness and promotes self-sufficiency.” – District Attorney Jeff Reisig

Homeless Neighborhood Court (H-NHC) began as a pilot project funded by Neighborhood Court's 2015 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) award. The project's goal was to divert criminal charges for individuals identified by law enforcement agencies, the Health and Human Services Agency, or the District Attorney’s Office as transient. 

H-NHC used a restorative justice conference process similar to the standard Neighborhood Court program, with the additional component of a Social Worker to assist the client during their engagement with the program. Program clients often included individuals afflicted with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, who required a high level of attention and assistance to successfully reintegrate into society. The Social Worker engaged with participants to develop a case plan addressing four dimensions: housing, self-sufficiency, behavioral health, and physical health. They provided support to ensure the successful fulfillment of case plan objectives. As a result, 81% of program clients who participated in the restorative justice conference through H-NHC went on to graduate from the program.

H-NHC operated from fall of 2015 through 2018, but ultimately ended due to lack of staffing and funding when the grant term ended. Many of the program's participants transitioned to new the Steps to Success program funded by a Prop 47 grant. Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency, in partnership with the Yolo County District Attorney, CommuniCare, and the Probation Department, are currently pursuing Prop 47's Cohort II grant funding to support a Steps to Success program expansion which would address the same population and core needs identified  through H-NHC.

The Chronicles of Justice Episode 3: NHC Homeless Restorative Justice Program

H-NHC Participant Perspectives

Neighborhood Court’s Local Evaluation Plan (LEP) team for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) interviewed several H-NHC participants to gather feedback on their experience with the program:

• “They (H-NHC) stayed with me because they saw something in me that I did not—gave me chance.”
• “They had hope and faith in me,” “made me believe in myself,” “they opened the door and let me walk in…,” “if I did not have this program I would not be doing well”…[H-NHC]…”encouraged me.”
• “H-NHC gave me a place to call, they come knocking on your door, and took a chance with me, but I was ready to change.”
• “They [Deanna and Marshall] had hope and faith in me…made me believe in myself.”
• “They made all the paperwork easy—I was pretty anti-establishment.”
• “Not to give up. If things don’t work out, keep trying, move to something else, it taught me persistence pays off.”
• “To make adult decisions, allowing yourself to feel—no self-blame,” “learning who I am,” “showed me the road but did not decide the direction...that mistakes are okay,” “learned that it is okay to ask for help because I can’t do everything myself.”
• “We need more programs like this,” “[I] wish there was more transitional housing,” “maybe [I could] be a peer mentor to others to set an example.”

H-NHC in the news:

DA Seeks Volunteers for Neighborhood Court, Homeless Offender Programs
Yolo County DA Helps Homeless Offenders with Court
Program Helps Chef Find Fresh Start Off Streets in Yolo County