Deputy Public Defender, County of San Diego and cofounder of Homeless Court Program and Veterans Treatment Courts
I started working with the homeless population as a new attorney in a new office. The Public Defender’s office had just formed to take on all criminal cases in San Diego County, and there were lots of homeless folks coming through who needed help with outstanding warrants.
A lot of their issues seemed so small – illegal lodging, urinating in public, recycling, and other conditions of homelessness – living outside, fully exposed, even people living in their vehicles, lost when impounded, leaving them to live, literally, on the streets.
I cofounded the Homeless Court Program in 1989 and Veterans Treatment Courts in 2011. The idea behind these courts is that we’re working with a community of people skilled with treatment and services that deal with the person as a whole, not just one element of a person’s needs.
When we address all the issues that these individuals face, then we’re really bringing law and order to our community. Public safety is built by securing individual safety.
The impact is tremendous. We’re helping people explore and achieve their fullest potential and resolving some of the barriers that prevent them from reclaiming their lives. And that can give us a glimpse at knowing what the full potential of our nation could be, when we invest in our people and ourselves.