What's Wrong With This Picture?

January 01, 2012
  • The lobby of the Hagerstown post office stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A call to The Herald-Mails Mail Call line said homeless people are sleeping there on cold nights.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

The problem: “When did the Hagerstown post office become the Hagerstown homeless hangout?” a Hagerstown resident asked on The Herald-Mail’s anonymous Mail Call line. “Stop in any cold night after hours and try walking in the lobby ... If you have a post office box, you have to literally step over them, since four to five of them might be in there sleeping after-hours.”

The post office lobby is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The caller suggested that insufficient lighting outside the post office contributes to after-hours safety concerns.

Who could fix it: U.S. Postal Service

What they say: Postal Service spokeswoman Freda Sauter confirmed that homeless people have been sleeping in the Hagerstown lobby.
“The staff wakes them up and asks them to leave almost every morning,” Sauter said.

“The Postmaster has reported to the local police and requested internal patrol after hours,” Sauter wrote in an email. “If this continues, we may be forced to eliminate 24-hour access into the lobby.”

Customers would be notifed in the event of that change, she said.
In regard to lighting, Sauter said a couple of bulbs were burned out, but they have been replaced.

Jodie Ostoich, executive director of REACH of Washington County, which runs a cold-weather homeless shelter, said she was not aware that homeless people had been sleeping in the post office.

She said REACH would provide the post office with copies of the street guides put out by the Washington County Homeless Coalition, which list shelters and other resources.

Ostoich said it is likely that the people sleeping in the post office are aware of the resources available. It is possible that they have been barred from local shelters — for example, REACH permanently bars people who have been violent or made threats — or are on a waiting list for shelter space, she said. The county is especially short on shelter space for women and for families, but REACH makes overflow space available on nights when the weather is below freezing or if there is rain, sleet or snow, she said.


 — Compiled by Heather Keels

If you are aware of a safety problem, a major annoyance or a pet peeve that one of our governmental bodies, an agency or an organization is responsible for fixing, send the information, and a photo if you have it, to:

What’s Wrong With This Picture
c/o The Herald-Mail newsroom
100 Summit Ave.
Hagerstown MD 21740
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Editor’s note: Each Monday, The Herald-Mail will highlight an infrastructure issue or other problem and will try to find out what is being done to fix or improve the situation.

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