L.A. leaders launch program to help unhoused people navigate court system

A woman bows her head above a fire hydrant spewing water.
A woman washes up at a fire hydrant near her encampment, off camera, along South Lemon Street in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 27, 2024.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles city and county leaders launched a legal service program Thursday that helps unhoused people resolve legal problems that could limit their access to housing and social services.

The Community Outreach Court, the first of its kind in the city, aims to streamline the criminal court process for homeless people and those at-risk of homelessness. It provides various legal aid services, such as resolving outstanding fines and fees and misdemeanors, expunging convictions and clearing bench warrants, while connecting participants to other much-needed services and job opportunities.

Established six months ago as a pilot program, the Community Outreach Court has helped about 190 people, including those at risk of losing their homes, officials said. The official launch marked the end of the program’s pilot status.


Arriving from Texas, the four migrant families from Central and South America, with children as young as 2, spent 90 days in the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row. Then, told they’d have to pay rent they didn’t have, they formed an impromptu community in a tent encampment two blocks away.

March 21, 2024

“When unhoused individuals are summoned to court, they are often reluctant to appear in court sometimes because they have no place to store their belongings or are afraid of losing them,” said L.A. City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto, whose office is spearheading the program. “This is our effort to bring our courts directly into the community to help solve these challenges.”

The Community Outreach Court is a collaborative effort that includes the L.A. County Superior Court, L.A. mayor’s office, county public defender’s office and county alternate public defender’s office.