The Redondo Beach Homeless Court launched outdoors in a parking lot during the height of the pandemic last year
It connected the unhoused with the services they need right then and there
Redondo Beach Homeless Court has helped several unhoused individuals avoid criminal prosecution and transition into homes
The program’s success has even garnered the attention of leaders in surrounding cities, too
A pilot program in Redondo Beach to address the homeless crisis has been so successful that local leaders said it is becoming the prototype for several other neighboring cities.
The Redondo Beach Homeless Court launched outdoors in a parking lot during the height of the pandemic last year, and it connected the unhoused with the services they need right then and there.
Michelle Scott was able to benefit from the services that were provided and her story has nearly come full circle. She has was even able to obtain her first California identification from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 20 months!” she exclaimed.
It was the one item that separated her from getting permanent housing after living on the streets for eight years.
Lila Omura is the outreach-housing navigator who found Scott behind a Torrance dumpster.
“This is the day that we did her assessment, the very first day on the side of that dumpster," Omura said as she showed a picture on her phone.
Omura was eventually able to convince Scott that there was more to life than the pain she was numbing with meth. She brought her to the Redondo Beach Homeless Court where they enrolled her in a drug rehab and placed her into temporary housing last year.
"Either I was gonna die out there or fight to live and I changed. And here I am today. Sober, I have a place to stay for right now and I’m working on getting my housing," Scott said last October during one of her court appearances.
However, securing permanent housing would prove to be a very complicated process – one that would have easily deterred Scott if she did not have the support from the Homeless Court.
It is a program that moved sessions outdoors to a parking lot when COVID cases were rampant last year. It gives defendants the option to get their cases dismissed if they complete judge-assigned programs like substance abuse rehab and mental health counseling.
Scott was set up to succeed.
All of the providers she needed were right there in the parking lot where LA County Superior Court Judge Renee Gilbertson heard each case on a monthly basis.
According to Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, who launched the program, Redondo Beach Homeless Court has helped several unhoused individuals avoid criminal prosecution and transition into homes, including Scott.
"The person is able to be stabilized and placed in permanent housing with support for the underlying challenges they face, whether it be mental health challenges, addiction, whether it be getting placed in a job and so it’s very rewarding that it’s working that well," Webb said.
Webb does not consider himself an emotional person, but said his eyes well up to see everybody’s interests perfectly aligned in this multi-agency collaboration.
The program’s success has even garnered the attention of leaders in surrounding cities, too.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Suzanne Hadley stopped by to see how they can implement a seemingly permanent solution like Redondo Beach Homeless Court.
"Whether it’s five or whether it’s 50, we want to help these people, get these records expunged, get document ready, get into permanent housing," Mayor Hadley explained. "That’s the goal. So the compassion and the effectiveness of this program is really important to us, even if we have a smaller number of unhoused than Redondo.”
With the cleaning of Echo Park and Venice Boardwalk, Mayor Hadley is concerned that there will soon be new unhoused faces in Manhattan Beach.
She is hoping to get one-step ahead, like Long Beach and Torrance, which have already built programs based on the Redondo Beach Homeless Court.
Webb said there are even talks of adopting this county-wide and it’s because of proven examples like Scott, who finally got her identification thanks to a document drafted by Judge Gilbertson.
"Judge Gilbertson signed this court order for DMV to give her her ID without a birth certificate," Omura said.
Scott could not even put into words what this feels like.
“I’ve been waiting for so long," she said, through tears.
Now, it is only a matter of time before she moves out of shared housing and starts her new life in her own place.
Redondo Beach said it was able to fund the Homeless Court program with a $250,000 grant from the South Bay Cities Council of Governments.
It is made up of 16 cities and the County of Los Angeles, all of which are looking into adopting this program.