SAN FRANCISCO—After describing his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and the toll the “freeze drying” of his emotions took, John “Jack” Lyon spoke about the disproportionate number of homeless individuals who are veterans. He warned about the “tsunami of veterans” who will be returning from overseas, many of whom will be suffering from combat-related stress disorders or traumatic brain injuries, and who will be in need of services. Dr. Jon Nachison, co-founder of Stand Down, explained that success in working with the homeless veteran population is achieved by evoking the healthiest parts of people. Several other speakers at the Homelessness and the Justice System Summit built upon that theme, sharing experiences and resources for helping address the needs of the homeless who are involved with the court system.
The Homelessness and the Justice System Summit: the Role of Problem Solving and Collaborative Courts, held on Friday, May 11 at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in San Francisco, was a collaborative effort of the AOC, the California Association of Drug Court Professionals, and the American Bar Association which also provided financial support for the Summit.
The Summit convened approximately 200 judges, practitioners, and experts from across the nation for a critical dialogue on how courts and communities can effectively address homelessness in an age of diminished funding and growing poverty.
In a video welcome from Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Summit participants were called to action to “explore solutions that will benefit homeless individuals, our communities, and our state.”
Following several panel presentations, attendees worked together in break-out groups to identify the challenges to serving specific court-involved homeless populations and then focused on collaborative efforts to overcoming those challenges. Key themes of the Summit included the impact of the current economic climate and scarce governmental resources, the increase in public–private partnerships, the emerging role of social entrepreneurship in problem solving, and the application of collaborative and restorative justice principles to helping homeless populations. A report compiling the work accomplished at the Summit will be issued later this year.