Quite a Day

Posted: June 25, 2009 in Justice, Miscellaneous

First, Farrah Fawcett, and then Michael Jackson. Two celebrity deaths are big news around the world, and especially here in Los Angeles. The famous actress died in Santa Monica, about fifteen miles from our apartment, and the King of Pop died at UCLA Medical Center, about twenty miles from here. It might be poor form to talk about traffic at a moment like this, but I’m glad my work had me in Pasadena today – Jody heard that traffic was horrible on my normal route home because of these sad events.

Many of my fellow clerks and I went to the Salvation Army in Pasadena today to participate in Homeless Court. Let me explain the premise.

One of the problems faced by many homeless people is unpaid tickets. You may or may not be surprised to know that many homeless people in L.A. are given multiple tickets for such nefarious activities as illegal use of a milk crate (sitting on it), illegal use of a shopping cart, the storing of personal possessions on a sidewalk, and jaywalking. When the homeless person is unable to pay the ticket, it transforms into an outstanding warrant. Then, when the individual tries to get a license, a bank account, a job, or an apartment, they are denied based on their police record. It becomes an inescapable cycle of trouble.

Well, not necessarily inescapable, thanks to Homeless Court. Homeless Court works with people who have completed 90-day transition programs and simply wipes the record clean, giving these folks a chance at success. Today was a glorious day for over fifty such people in Pasadena, and I got to represent three before the judge.

Jimmy had knee surgery two days ago, has turned in over a hundred job applications unsuccessfully because of six outstanding tickets totaling over a thousand bucks, and is ready to get to work even with a crutch under one arm. Sondra is a single mom living in a slum hotel with her boys, unable to secure permanent housing for her family (and get a job) because her record includes tickets received when living on the streets after losing her house to foreclosure. Marshall was homeless and on the waiting list for ten years for Section 8 housing before getting his own apartment, but afterwards, tickets led him to lose his license and left him unable to secure permanent employment.

I got to stand beside Jimmy, Sondra, and Marshall today and see “the system” treat them well for the first time in a long time. It was one of my greatest honors.

(Note: Several of my clerks and I went to see “The Soloist” after Homeless Court, but I’ll have to save my movie review until tomorrow.)

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