Homeless court could come to Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's a program already in place with our neighbors to the south and to the west. Now, Myrtle Beach city leaders are working on a new system to help homeless people who are facing charges in our area. In a sense, it's a chance for a second chance that benefits not only the offender but also the city.

"We just see it as another way to help people in need," said Mayor Brenda Bethune.

Instead of facing jail time, homeless court would allow those who are currently homeless or homeless at the time of their charge the chance to enter a diversion program.

"They will be sent to New Directions where they will meet with a case worker and find out about their circumstances," said Bethune.

"The part that we would play with new directions is we would work on and with those who are attending homeless court to develop a program for them to move forward," explained New Directions Director Kathy Jenkins.

That program could include 12 step fellowships, coping skills, or criminal addictive thinking.

This program is already in two South Carolina cities. It started in Columbia in 2015, and then started in Charleston last year.

Mayor Bethune says a local judge is working to bring it here.

"It came about through our own chief judge in the city Jennifer Wilson, and she learned about it from what Columbia and Charleston have done," said Mayor Bethune. "We realize there are people who need help, and if we're just putting them in jail for a few hours or overnight, then they're not getting the help that they need. If we could help someone that has a support system back home and we can be that catalyst to get them there, that's huge. We can't help everyone, but if we could help one or two people, to me, that's worth it."

Now city leaders will have to petition the South Carolina Supreme Court in order to move forward.

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