The King of Dallas’ Homeless People

Jennifer King enlists the homeless in community service

Published in 2009 Texas Rising Stars Magazine

As Jennifer King sees it, the best way to make the world a better place is to concentrate on her corner of it.

King, 35, a partner at Burford & Ryburn in Dallas, works to help homeless people in her community through the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (DAYL).

For years, DAYL's Aid to the Homeless Committee unsuccessfully tried to initiate a program to address the backlog of citations issued to homeless by the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) police. These citations for misdemeanors such as fare evasion languished in the judicial system.

Then King took on the project. A litigator of professional liability defense cases, she spearheaded the creation of the DART Community Court Project, which enlists two judges to adjudicate DART citations and allows those who were cited to work off their fines through community service. It's a win-win for both the judicial system and the homeless men and women who can clear the citations from their records.

The first Community Court Project Saturday was held in 2007 and another was held last year—in 2009, they hope for two. King says over 90 percent of those who apply to have their citations adjudicated at the DART Community Court show up and complete the community service.

"These individuals are trying to get their life back on track and find employment. They are happy to have the opportunity to get these citations off of their record," she says.

DAYL's Aid to the Homeless Committee is currently looking into ways to expand its work with the JP Courts (the courts with jurisdiction over DART citations) and the homeless population. "I'm just really passionate about Dallas, and one of the areas that I've identified where I can help is homelessness," King says.

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