Mail for the homeless: A local lifeline for people off the grid

Since 2010, Broad Street Ministry has served as a kind of post office for people experiencing homelessness. Those who comes in can claim the ministry’s address as their own.

Currently, more than 3,200 people actively use the mail service at the ministry, which is not a shelter, but offers meals, medical service, and other amenities for the homeless in a large, Gothic church across from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Last year, ministry volunteers handled 154,000 pieces of mail for guests, as they are called. It’s not uncommon for individual shelters to accept mail for clients, experts say. But Broad Street is believed to be the city’s largest mail service for people without a home.

Along with letters from loved ones, Social Security checks, and packages, guests say the mail service helps them obtain birth certificates and identification, impossible to do without an address.

When applying for official IDs or licenses, guests can write in the ministry’s address of 315 S. Broad St. For some, it’s nothing less than salvation.

According to a recent survey of people who’ve used services at Broad Street, 33.5 percent said that they had received IDs through the mail that ultimately allowed them to obtain housing. Sixty-four percent said those IDs helped them get benefits. And 33 percent said they were able to use the IDs to land jobs.

If you’re somewhere, you’re someone, many of the guests believe.


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