Union Gospel Mission recently hosted a meeting for Access to Justice, an advisory committee under the direction of the Honorable Municipal Court Judge Jane Aiken, to discuss how best to address the issue of Quality of Life crimes. Quality of Life crimes are misdemeanors such as trespassing, vagrancy, and consumption and sale of alcohol in certain places. Since the majority of the misdemeanors are committed by the homeless population, we at UGM have a vested interest in what happens to those being charged.
According to Rick Bratton, guest services manager at UGM and member of Access to Justice, those receiving citations for quality of life crimes often fail to appear to their scheduled court date which leads to an increasing workload for the police, the jail, and county prosecutors. The advisory committee has found that a lack of transportation is the number one reason that defendants fail to appear in court. Other reasons include a fear of going to court, a fear of going to jail, or a lack of trust in the court system. Access to Justice is seeking to bring together external justice system professionals and community members in order to identify the case flow process of Quality of Life offenses so that the court system will operate more efficiently and effectively and that those committing Quality of Life offenses are also treated justly in the process. At UGM, we are committed to serving alongside community leaders and to advocate on behalf of the hungry, hurting and homeless.
Proverbs 31:9 says, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” As Christians, we follow a God who has a special relationship with the afflicted and needy. God has not forgotten or forsaken them and neither should we. Every day hundreds of hungry, hurting and homeless men, women and children come to UGM seeking shelter and sustenance. Many of them are burdened with crippling fears that have been building because of unfortunate circumstances and poor choices. At UGM we are passionate about restoring hope and restoring lives and greeting every guest, no matter what brings them to us, with the love, grace and compassion that are found in our Savior Jesus Christ.