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More than 250 people tuned in to the San Bernardino Superior Court’s fourth town hall Oct. 19, this one on eliminating bias against the homeless.  

Presiding Judge Michael Sachs opened the panel, and San Bernardino Superior Court Judges John Pacheco and Winston Keh moderated. Linda Metz, Deputy District Attorney; Daniel Edber, Deputy Public Defender; Veronica Kelley, San Bernardino County director of behavioral health; Joe Baca Jr., county supervisor; and Ingrid Uhler, San Bernardino County Superior Judge spoke on the panel.  

Here are some of the biggest takeaways. 

Veronica Kelley, San Bernardino County director of behavioral health: 

  • California’s homeless are most often from the community they’re homeless in. 
  • Homelessness is most often not due to mental illness or addiction. 
  • Homeless services increase property value in neighborhoods. 
  • The county supports seven mental health services and housing projects, which include 94 permanent housing units. 
  • It takes about 40 contacts with a homeless individual to gain the trust to get them in housing. 

Joe Baca Jr., county supervisor: 

  • The 2019 homeless point-in-time count found 3,125 homeless people in the county. 
  • The real statistic is more like 9,000 homeless people. 
  • San Bernardino holds a third of the county’s homeless, followed by Redlands, then Rialto. 

Ingrid Uhler, San Bernardino County Superior Judge: 

  • Shelter Court is an opportunity for the homeless to take care of misdemeanor and traffic matters without the fear of arrest for a warrant. The court is held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Friday of every month. It used to be held at the Foothill Family Shelter in Upland, but has been recently held in the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse parking lot. After a guilty plea, the homeless would be assigned community service or Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, after which their warrants would be quashed and they can apply to get social security benefits and a driver’s license, which opens their path to employment. Shelter Court will go dark again soon as Uhler goes on winter vacation, but will return in January. Pets and personal items are allowed. They currently help 25 people a month, Uhler said. 
  • Walk-ins are allowed. The court occasionally moves to other places in the county. The Shelter Court coordinator can be reached at 909-265-3860. 

The California Judges’ Association awarded the superior court’s townhall program with the 2021 Community Outreach Award this month. The court’s next town hall, on eliminating bias in juvenile court, will be held in January. 

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