‘Post Office’ For Atlanta Homeless Continues Mail Service During COVID-19 Shutdown

Crossroads Community Ministries continues to provide mail services for people who are homeless even as other agencies shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bita Honarvar

The pandemic has disrupted services around Georgia, even as the state begins to reopen. But in midtown Atlanta, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed much with the coronavirus outbreak. Every week, you can still find a line of people waiting along Courtland Street—now standing 6-feet apart.

The people are there to get mail at Crossroads Community Ministries, an organization that operates like a post office for those who are homeless and don’t have a permanent address. It’s one of the few places in Atlanta where they can receive not only letters but key government documents and benefits.

Executive director Tony Johns talked to WABE about the challenges the organization and its clients have faced as Crossroads tries to stay open during the pandemic.

On the limited options for housing, employment and government services during the outbreak…

“People we turn to for resources are no longer doing what they were doing. So we can’t just call a shelter and get a bed for an individual because they’re not taking in new people, and the people who are there aren’t leaving. We can’t just call employers because employment has been disrupted and unemployment rates have shot up the way they have. And most departments of driver services and vital records offices around the country are closed. So birth certificates and IDs and now become an issue.”

On what that means for those who need government-issued documents to receive benefits…

“That means waiting, unfortunately. Food stamps, Social Security, disability, those kind of things–if they haven’t applied for them before, it would be difficult right now if they do not have documentation. It would be really difficult to apply for and receive those things at the moment. And it’s a cumbersome process in regular times. It can take quite a long time for the application and review process to the point of actually being approved for benefits. And it’s more difficult because of the crisis.”

On the effect of the federal stimulus package on people who are homeless in the city…

“We saw our first stimulus checks coming into our mailroom on Friday in a significant amount. A lot of times people don’t think that if someone is homeless that they’re working but a large percentage of those we serve who are experiencing homelessness do have jobs that just don’t make enough money to also afford a house or an apartment because of housing costs. And so they are receiving these stimulus checks. They pay taxes, just like the rest of us. And if they didn’t have access to these, it could definitely be detrimental to them in their efforts to survive.”