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Attorney Wants To Help Louisville's Homeless Rid Their Records of Minor Infractions

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A local attorney wants to help remove minor infractions from the records of homeless people in Louisville. The hope is that this could help them find housing and a job without a small legal barrier.

Earlier this year, Bart Greenwald, a partner at Frost Brown Todd in Louisville, met a federal judge named Jay Zainey during a bar association meeting in California. Zainey is from New Orleans and has been running a similar program for about a decade now.

Zainey gets local attorneys to help homeless people remove minor infractions from their records. That sometimes entails violations like possessing a small amount of marijuana, child support orders and outstanding bench warrants, among other things.

A few weeks later,  a homeless man died outside the St. John Center for Homeless Men in Louisville during a cold winter night.

“And it just got me thinking,” he Greenwald. “Maybe I could figure out a way to get this program that Judge Zainey has put together across the country and bring it to Louisville. “

So, Greenwald reached out the Legal Aid Society, which is a local group or lawyers and advocates that works with hundreds of homeless people in the city.

“We love to get a call like we got from Bart—from the private bar—that says, ‘Hey we want to help, how can we do it?’” said Jeff Been, executive director of Legal Aid.

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Been said this program has the potential to help hundreds of people in Louisville.

“What we recognized is there are a lot of what are seemingly minor problems in the criminal justice system, or outstanding bench warrants or child support orders—that if they just had a little bit of help it would remove an impediment to housing or employment,” Been said.

The program will start at the St. John Center for Homeless Men. Greenwald said he plans to expand the program later, including to the women’s shelter.

For the moment, though, Greenwald is recruiting local attorneys and is hoping to raise $25,000 this off the ground. He said he’s already getting a lot of calls from attorneys in the area interested in helping out.