City of Myrtle Beach held its Inaugural Homeless Court session

The City of Myrtle Beach held its Inaugural Homeless Court session Wednesday, at New Directions on Osceola Street. Myrtle Beach Municipal Chief Judge Jennifer Wilson heard two cases during Wednesday's first court session. The program is a voluntary diversion program for people who are homeless and find themselves in trouble with the law. The goal is to provide real help for individuals, especially repeat offenders, instead of issuing more fines or jail sentences.

Those who meet the criteria and ask to go through the Homeless Court will work with New Directions of Horry County to establish a defined treatment plan. As a result, individuals who want help will be able to seek it, rather than spend time in jail or pay a fine. Of course, a person who is homeless and charged with an offense also can remain in the current court system.

The homeless court treatment includes a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. It also features programs about coping skills, addictive thinking and other helpful topics. New Directions will work with outside agencies to help find housing, medical care, mental health counseling and education and employment services, as needed.

Judge Jennifer Wilson hopes repeat offenders will see Homeless Court as a way of getting back on their feet and getting the help and assistance they need. Instead of jail time, they’ll get assistance for whatever issues may have forced them onto the streets. Those who complete the agreed treatment program and services, as determined by the provider and public defender, will have their charges and fines dismissed or reduced as part of the Homeless Court.