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      Homeless courts could be coming to Columbia

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- A new type of justice for the homeless could be coming to Columbia.

      Council woman Tameika Issac Devine says there's a revolving door of homeless men and women going to jail and then being re-released onto the streets.

      Devine pushing for homeless courts, pointing out it could close that revolving door of homelessness.

      "It keeps them from saying you either go do this or you go to jail, we don't want to put people in jail for just being homeless," said Devine.

      Devine points out several crimes committed by those living on the streets are done in an effort to live.

      She argues a homeless court will help keep those people from having criminal records and give service providers an opportunity help them.

      It could be a carrot and I think that the mental health court is that carrot, I think the domestic court is a carrot and it's the same way I think this homeless court can be a carrot, it can help people and say you're homeless and we want to help you," adds Devine .

      "A lot of people would say it's more similar to a drug intervention," said law professor Colin Miller.

      Miller says homeless courts were introduced in San Diego in the late 80's and many other cities have followed suit.

      He says rather than going through the traditional justice system the homeless court prevents them from serving time or paying a fine.

      The goal here is to get a person to understand the nature of the damage they did and to be able to actually serve the very community that they harmed through their crime," adds Miller.

      Critics of the Columbia cares plan say it profiles the homeless and Miller argues that some may say the courts could increase police targeting of people on the streets.

      Council woman Devine says her plan will help, however it's not the overall solution.

      I'm trying to do is just give one piece of the puzzle, one solution on how we can address it. Homeless court is not going to solve the problem, Columbia Cares is not going to solve the problem, building a shelter is not going to solve the problem," concludes Devine.