Because of their daily visibility, people who are homeless are vulnerable to citations and arrests for various offenses relating to their homelessness, i.e. “illegal” camping. The majority of ticketed offenses fall under the description of “quality of life” tickets, and basic human needs like, sleeping, and eating continue to be criminalized. Since the majority of people who are homeless have little to no money, when a citation or arrest occurs, it can be expected that they will not be able to pay the required fines, or pay for the transportation needed to appear in court to resolve the matter. Subsequently, the consequences of this become great, as unresolved warrants, citations, and fines rapidly turn into barriers that prevent people from keeping their drivers licenses, obtaining housing, and securing employment.
It is our mission to intercept original citations and offer alternatives to incarceration and fines, through community service. The community service program at Loaves & Fishes is operated through the Tommy Clinkenbeard Legal Clinic. Currently, we can offer homeless defendants the opportunity to serve four hours of community service work per day. Our community service workers remove trash from the streets and sidewalks in the neighborhood nearby Loaves & Fishes. They also keep clean the property of Loaves & Fishes. Some who are qualified for kitchen duties work in the Loaves & Fishes dining room and assist in preparing and serving food at the daily noon meal.
In addition to operating the community service program, the legal clinic volunteers provide legal advice to homeless persons. On an average day we see 25 clients; some need only a small service like determining if they have any pending warrants. We arrange for those who do have warrants to meet with a Sacramento County Public Defender at our monthly public defender clinic. Approximately 30 clients a month qualify to attend the public defender clinic and then go on to our monthly homeless court in Department 2 of the Sacramento Superior Court.
The Legal Clinic was initiated in 2000 by Tommy Clinkenbeard, a Sacramento County Public Defender.