How do NJ’s homeless get needed documents … without an address?
Officials in Passaic have recently set up mailboxes, separate from the Postal Service, for their city's homeless population to be able to receive crucial documentation such as driver's licenses, benefits, and compensation.
The boxes, as reported by NorthJersey.com, are located at the city's homeless resource center, making for a centralized location with equal access for all.
That's similar to what's been tried in the past by homeless organizations and shelters in Morris County, according to Denville social services coordinator Stephen Dublanica, but he said it may not be the most prudent approach for every municipality.
"I think it's a good idea to make things easier for the homeless to be able to receive documentation, to have an address," Dublanica said.
He recalled the story of a man who came to him in need of access to a Post Office box, which his town wound up paying for out of its own coffers.
A P.O. box, however, can run upwards of $100 per year.
Dublanica downplayed the apprehension many seem to have toward the USPS in the run-up to the November election. He said when dealing with the homeless, the desire to get them what they need is universal.
"The Post Office is a trustworthy institution, and you will get what you need from them. The problem with post office boxes is they cost money," he said. "If you have three or four homeless people, that might be a good solution. If you have dozens and dozens, then I think what Passaic has done is quite smart."
In years past, a consistent mailing address might have been even more important, with regular distribution of welfare checks. Now those benefits are loaded onto a single, debit-like card -- but there still needs to be an established destination in case anything goes awry.
"If the card gets lost, then we get into a whole different kettle of fish," Dublanica said. "Then you've got to go get a new one and they need an address to send it to. So it's very important for them to have a physical address somewhere."
As Dublanica observed, the feasibility of what Passaic is now doing will fluctuate in other municipalities given their specific resources, not to mention their particular percentage of homeless residents.
But for now, he said the city is making it easier not only for the homeless, but for the social service workers who help connect them to these vital identifying documents.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.