Homeless Courts

law court gavelAccording to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report, The 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, nearly 554,000 people were homeless in the United States in 2017. While most were able to stay in emergency shelters or transitional housing more than 192,000 had no shelter to go to.

The homeless often receive citations for panhandling and other public nuisance violations or are arrested for misdemeanor violations such as petty theft. Some homeless people may not appear in court because they don’t have the means to get there or their need to find food and shelter outweigh all other concerns. Others choose not to appear in court, either because of hygiene concerns, not wanting to make a bad first impression; an inability to defend themselves in court; or a fear of being taken into custody. Even if they do appear in court, they may be required to pay fines they cannot afford. As a consequence of these unresolved legal issues, they may be prevented from accessing services such as employment assistance, housing, counseling, substance abuse treatment and public assistance.

In 1989, San Diego, California established the first Homeless Court Program in the country in order to help homeless defendants get the help they need to become productive members of society. Open only to defendants accused of misdemeanor violations, instead of fines and custody the defendant is ordered to participate in activities as part of a plan designed by the defendant and a shelter caseworker in order to provide the education, training, counseling, substance abuse treatment, and employment assistance needed so the defendant can become self-sufficient. As of January 2018, there were Homeless Court Programs in several jurisdictions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Today’s market size is the number of jurisdictions with Homeless Court Programs in the United States according to the American Bar Association (ABA). Although Detroit, Michigan is not mentioned on the ABA website, the Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD), modeled after the Ann Arbor Street Outreach Court, became the 23rd homeless court in the United States in June 2012 according to Street Democracy’s website. SOCD may be “the only court that combines criminal and civil pro bono counsel to address legal matters outside the court’s jurisdiction and tracks the long-term success rate of program participants.”1 “Six months after graduating from the program, 97 percent of participants had stable housing, 91 percent had stable income, and 100 percent had no new misdemeanor or felony charges.”2

1 “The Story of SOCD,” Street Democracy available online here.
2 Annessa Morley, “A Positive Ripple Effect,” Wayne State, Fall 2017, page 31 available online here.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2018
Market size: 32
Sources: “Homeless Courts,” American Bar Association, 2018 available online here; Annessa Morley, “A Positive Ripple Effect,” Wayne State, Fall 2017, pages 28-31 available online here; Meghan Henry, et. al., The 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, December 2017 available online here; “The Story of SOCD,” Street Democracy available online here.
Image source: Activedia, “law-justice-court-judge-legal-1063249,” Pixabay, November 26, 2015 available online here.

U.S. Electorate


Today’s market size is the size of the voting population in the United States based on electoral results from the 2012 national election. We chose this topic for today by way of recognition of yesterday’s inaugural ceremonies. The chart provides an interesting view of how the electorate relates to the overall population. If you’re interested in a comparison of voter turnout rates by state, the source material for this post is a table that presents a great deal of detail at the state level. A link to that material is provided below. The state with the highest voter turnout in 2012—as it is most election years—was Minnesota.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2012
Market size: 130,234,600 votes counted (as of December 31, 2012)
Source: Dr. Michael McDonald, “2012 General Election Turnout Rates,” December 31, 2012, The United States Election Project, the Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University, available online here. The data used to produce the graphic are from this GMU source as well as the U.S. Census Bureau.
Posted on January 22, 2013

Sales Taxes

With so much discussion of late about taxes, mostly income taxes, we thought we’d look at another tax. This one rests particularly heavily on those at the lowest end of the income scale. It is the sales tax.

Sales taxes vary greatly from state to state and within a state from area to area. An example of this is Warren County, New York, located at the southern end of the Adirondack Mountains and encompassing the beautiful resorts surrounding Lake George. As a region for which tourism is a major economic engine, it levies its own local sales tax. Total sales taxes of 7% are collected in Warren County, 4% is a state level tax which is passed on to the state and the remaining 3% is retained by the county. Please note that this local sales tax may not be included when the U.S. Census Bureau does studies of national sales tax collections for a particular year by looking at the totals collected by each state. It depends on whether or not the state in question includes that local sales tax revenue in its summary of tax collections reported to the Census Bureau.

Today’s market size is the total collected for sales taxes in the United States by states in 2011. These sales taxes accounted in 2011 for 48.4% of the total of all taxes collected by state governments.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2011 (fiscal year)
Market size: $366.54 billion
Source: “State Government Tax Collections Summary Report: 2011,” April 12, 2012, a report from the Census Bureau available online here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census
Posted on January 3, 2013 (still seems odd, 2013!)