For Those Teetering on the Edge, Street Outreach Court Offers a Push in the Right Direction

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For those already teetering on the edge of financial disaster, even a relatively minor court case can push them over the edge into homelessness or the loss of a job.

But a Michigan court billed as unique in the Midwest is trying to push defendants working to better themselves onto more solid ground, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Known as Street Outreach Court, it was created five years ago by Ann Arbor District Judge Elizabeth Hines. She holds sessions every other month in an informal setting across the street from the Washtenaw County courthouse that is intended to help defuse concerns that those who come in with outstanding warrants will be arrested.

Defendants who aren’t involved in violent crimes can have their warrants canceled and unpaid fines waived here, if they have worked with a social service agency to develop an action plan and are making progress in a positive direction with issues such as homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse and lack of education, the newspaper explains.

“These fees can be enormous barriers,” says Hines. She recently waived several hundred dollars in traffic fines that Timothy Payne, 31, couldn’t afford to pay, for example, thus making it possible for him to get his license back and increase his chances of getting a job to pay his rent.

“I’m so excited I could just jump up and down,” Payne said after his hearing in Street Outreach Court.

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