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Denver Offers Homeless a Fresh Start in the New Year

Outreach Court gives people an easier way to access the legal system

DENVER ­— The City and County of Denver has a new program to help people experiencing homelessness gain better access to the county court system and avoid deeper involvement with the criminal justice system.

Denver Outreach Court is designed to increase stabilization and reduce future interactions with the justice system for individuals experiencing homelessness or receiving homeless or transitional services. The court helps individuals take action on municipal level citations or warrants and provides direct access to mental health services and enrollment in Medicaid. Community service options are also available to complete court requirements. Instead of requiring people to come to a courthouse, which for those experiencing homelessness can often be difficult, the Outreach Court is held every other Wednesday at Denver Rescue Mission.

The new program is a partnership created by the Denver Office of Behavioral Health Strategies, Denver County Courts, Denver Rescue Mission, the City Attorney’s Office, Office of the Municipal Public Defender, Colorado Access and Mental Health Center of Denver.

“Through this coordinated effort, we are providing a path for our most vulnerable residents to access the right services and get a fresh start,” Mayor Hancock said. “Diversion from the penal system is one of a number of strategies we are employing to address the barriers people experiencing homelessness are facing and tackle them head on with new solutions.”

Outreach Court began on December 7, 2016 and is held every other Wednesday at the Denver Rescue Mission at 1130 Park Ave. W. in Denver.  In the three sessions held thus far, more than 148 cases have been heard. This court is intended to meet homeless individuals in a safe and familiar location while reducing the amount of time required to resolve warrants and tickets.

“We are thrilled to offer this service to the community,” Regi Huerter, executive director of Denver’s Office of Behavioral Health Strategies said. “By providing a simpler way for individuals to access the court and other resources, we are working with our partners to remove barriers and help set them up for successful transition to housing and opportunities in a more immediate manner.”