It’s estimated that in 2021, there will be over half a million homeless people in the United States. One major hurdle homeless people experience is the lack of regular mail delivery.
So you might be wondering what USPS does to ensure the homeless have access to mail. I was interested in the same thing, so I researched the matter, and here’s what I discovered!
Can a Homeless Person Get a Free USPS PO Box?
The United States Postal Service offers free PO boxes to homeless persons without a permanent residence. Those requesting this service must fill out an application and provide some form of identification. Then, the local Postmaster approves the requests. Those who don’t qualify for a free PO box may instead be eligible for General Delivery.
To learn more about how to sign up for a free USPS PO box and how General Delivery can take the place of a PO box for those who don’t qualify, find all you need to know below!
How Can a Homeless Person Sign Up For a Free USPS PO Box?
The Postal Service’s commitment to delivering mail to every address in the United States extends beyond just mailboxes or driveways.
This government agency, the only one to be constitutionally guaranteed to U.S. citizens, also works to ensure that the homeless population continues to have access to mail.
So, if you or a loved one are experiencing homelessness and require a permanent place of delivery for mailpieces, the first step is to obtain and fill out an application.
That said, the Postal Service uses the same application for all PO box requests, PS form 1093.
Also, it’s important to fill out this application to the best of your ability, sticking to the white space (the greyed-out area is for Post Office use only).
After that, your next step is to physically take the application to your closest Post Office location. With that, you must do this because you will have to speak to the Postmaster of that building.
Also, there’s one area on the application that might cause some alarm – the identification section.
Further, the eligibility for a homeless person is different than for a non-homeless one because the USPS recognizes that the difficulty for the former in obtaining identification is exponential.
Instead, if you’re applying to receive a free PO box due to homelessness, you must meet these requirements:
- You have a valid form of ID (state-issued ID or driver’s license, passport, etc.).
- If you don’t have a valid form of ID, you’re known to the Postmaster, and they can vouch for your identification.
- You have a valid point of contact for the Post Office to reach you when necessary ( yours or a family member’s cell phone number or email address).
Additionally, you may use the phone number of a reliable friend, a place of employment, a shelter or charity institution, or your social services office.
If you have given the Post Office one point of contact, say a friend’s phone number, but then no longer have access to it, you must go in and inform the Postmaster of the change.
If you’re approved, you will be assigned a box and given a key. Some Post Offices, particularly larger/busier ones, have 24-hour access to the lobby and PO boxes.
But you can check online at USPS.com to see what your hours of access will be.
Further, if you have internet access and an email address, you can sign up for Informed Delivery.
That way, if you can’t access your PO box every day, you can at least see what’s being delivered.
Why Was Your Free USPS PO Box Application Denied?
There are a few reasons why an application for a free USPS PO box might be denied.
First and foremost, if you don’t have any of the requirements necessary to set one up, the Postmaster will not be able to approve the application.
For example, if you have no point of contact, the Postmaster will be much less likely to issue an approval.
Also, if you don’t have an ID and you’re not known to the Postmaster, that would be grounds for denial.
Or, an application denial could be that the Post Office doesn’t have any available PO boxes. If that’s the case, and you live in a city with multiple locations, you can try a different one.
Still, if that’s inconvenient or would cause undue hardship, there’s another option outside of a PO box so that you can access mail (see below).
What If a Homeless Person Doesn’t Meet Requirements For a Free PO Box?
If a homeless person doesn’t meet the requirements for a free PO box, all hope is not lost. For example, the Postmaster can instead set them up with General Delivery.
That said, General Delivery is a service used by many different types of people with various lifestyles.
With General Delivery, the Post Office holds mail at one of its locations for customers to come in and retrieve.
However, the major downside of General Delivery vs. a PO box is that PO boxes are accessible at any time, whereas General Delivery is only accessible during retail hours.
Still, General Delivery is a free service to the homeless population and can be used in the meantime while waiting for a PO box to free up.