HOMELESS ALTERNATIVE TO LIVING ON THE STREET
Now in its 5th year of existence, the Homeless Alternative to Living On the Streets Project (HALO) has gained national recognition as a successful form of collaborative justice. (See page 39 of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Community Oriented Defense: Stronger Public Defenders.) In an effort to reduce recidivism, the HALO project is a pre-plea diversion program which provides an alternative to incarcerating homeless clients who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled and/or addicted to narcotics or other substances.
The eligibility screening process is commenced when deputy public defenders refer their misdemeanor clients--who are either homeless or are facing homelessness due to their criminal court involvement--to the deputy public defender assigned to the HALO project. During Fiscal Year 2010-2011, 170 clients have been referred to the project while 112 were deemed eligible.
The HALO attorney evaluates and presents these cases to a deputy city attorney for review. The protocol established by the parties excludes all clients charged with violations involving gang injunctions, fraud, domestic violence and charges subject to registration pursuant to PC 290.
The clients fund their own treatment from their General Relief and/or SSI benefits, which are assigned to the treatment provider. The client is referred to the Department of Mental Health for an intake assessment to determine eligibility for mental health services. Treatment plans can range from three to six months. Outpatient mental health treatment is primarily provided by Department of Mental Health clinics. Clients in need of a more supportive environment are referred to “Board and Care” facilities which are staffed by psychiatric personnel.
Clients who decline treatment when initially offered, or refuse to continue treatment, have the option of either contesting the charges or accepting a traditional disposition. Clients who successfully complete their course of treatment receive a dismissal.