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County sends 1 million pieces of mail to itself for homeless

County mails a million letters to itselfThe L.A. County Social Services Department sends over a million pieces of mail to its own district offices each year intended for tens of thousands of homeless residents.

But from 60% to 90% of the mail is not picked up and ends up in the shredder. In an effort to end the costly practice, officials this week took a step toward doing away with paper mail for a wide swath of the county’s homeless in favor of an electronic system.

Federal regulations require Social Services to send paper mail to the 50,000 to 70,000 homeless county residents enrolled in the CalFresh benefits program, commonly known as food stamps. More than 1 million county residents receive CalFresh benefits.

The letters, which include court notices, information about public benefits, appointments or even unauthorized personal letters, are sent to about 30 of the department’s district offices where those homeless residents use the building’s address.

Department officials said mailing them cost at least $390,000 in 2011. Instead, officials have suggested that Social Services could create an email account for each participant while still providing printing at a social services office.

But homeless advocates worry that an electronic mail system could invade privacy and may not work well for homeless residents who are mentally ill, illiterate or don’t have access to a printer.

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— Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: The L.A. County Social Services Department sends over a million pieces of mail to itself each year. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
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