Tulsa’s first municipal “homeless court” docket will be called today, when a dozen people ticketed for relatively minor offenses will go before a judge, says the Tulsa World. Prosecutors hope it will stem the cycle of a transient population being repeatedly jailed instead of receiving help. Some Tulsans are cautiously optimistic as the court nears its inaugural gavel bang before Judge Gerald Hofmeister.
Hugh Robert, a Tulsa attorney and soup kitchen board member, is representing one of the people listed on the docket. Charges being considered today range from trespassing to public intoxication to assault and battery. Robert offered free legal assistance to three people ticketed for trespassing outside the soup kichen last month. Trespassing citations carry a maximum fine of $250, but failure to pay the citation can result in a warrant for arrest. Only one showed up for court, and, as feared, the other two had arrest warrants issued. Tulsa City Prosecutor Bob Garner hopes the new homeless court will prevent that outcome. “It’s a vicious cycle with some people,” Garner said. “Many of them have alcohol or other problems, and they’ll go to jail for a couple days intentionally just to sober up … They end up with court costs they will never pay, and we end up having to arrest them again, when what they really need is help or mental health help.”