The City of Spartanburg Homeless Court is a voluntary program created to help individuals who are either currently homeless or homeless at the time they were charged with a criminal offense that falls within the criteria for Homeless Court participation. The purpose of the Homeless Court is to encourage participants to receive and complete treatment and rehabilitation programs in exchange for the dismissal of the fines associated with a criminal offense and, in some cases, the dismissal of an offense.
In the spring of 2019, Municipal Court Judge Erika McJimpsey convened a group of local attorneys, public defenders, officials from the solicitor's office and homeless service providers. The Judge's concern was the number of homeless people regularly coming to court. Attorney George Cauthen of Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough Law explained to the group the history and process of homeless court. The group all agreed this was the best solution and the application was fast tracked through the Supreme Court. The first homeless court was held at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen in December of 2019.
Beth Rutherford, dedicated advocate for the court, attends Municipal Court at 8:30 and 3:00 on Mondays and Thursdays and when someone presents as homeless or needing resources, Beth, and the offender work together to apply for homeless court. The application is sent to the Solicitor's office for approval and once approved, the participant is paired with an advocate and a pro-bono attorney. The three partner together to set goals and objectives designed to help them out of homelessness. The Judge decides, upon recommendation from the attorney and advocate when the charges will be dismissed. The participant "graduates" and then works with the attorney for expungement of that charge.