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Homeless use Lynnwood post office for shelter

Homeless use Lynnwood post office for shelter (PHOTO: KOMO News)

This time of year brings long lines of customers to local post office’s to mail holiday packages.

For the post office in Lynnwood on 208th Street SW homeless people looking for a warm place to sleep are showing up too.

The manager at the Lynnwood Post Office said typically one or two people a day are using the post office's 24 hour lobby to crash in the middle of the night.

It houses the facility’s hundreds of P.O. boxes and a self-serve kiosk.

Some are even showing up with blankets and sleeping bags.

"They sleep in inconspicuous areas, so they're usually hidden, back here or under the tables," said Lisa Wood, the USPS Officer in Charge at the Lynnwood Post Office, pointing to the far end of a long work table in the middle of the lobby. The table is surrounded by walls of tiny post office boxes.

She said with the winter months her staff has been finding people nearly every morning in their lobby, at times they've found as many as five people sleeping in the lobby.

Some days, about once a week or so, Wood said her staff finds needles there, too. She said needles are even tossed on the ground outside the building.

"Needles are a problem," said Wood.

To keep customers and staff safe, Wood said one of two staff members do a sweep of the lobby every morning before the main post office opens.

They’re looking for campers, who are asked to leave, and told it’s not for camping; once gone staff clean the lobby of any trash or debris.

Wood said most leave without incident, but thinks what’s happening is a sad sign of the times. "I think it's homelessness in America."

It's become a balancing act here and for some other post offices.

The Lynnwood location and others in the area want to keep their 24 hour lobbies open so customers can access whenever it’s convenient for them.

The lobby also houses their self-serve kiosk – customers can buy stamps and mail packages any time.

Customer Carol Guffey said she hasn’t seen many campers, but she’s definitely encountered them a few times at night when she uses the self-serve kiosk.

"The ones I’ve seen haven't bothered anybody, I just think they're getting out of the weather," said Guffey, who came to the Lynnwood Post Office to use the self-serve kiosk today to mail some packages.

The local USPS Postal Inspector Anna Weller told KOMO camping in the post office lobbies is not the norm, and is not allowed or encouraged.

She said some post offices have opted to close their 24 hour lobbies overnight.

We noticed others with posted signage that the premises are for customers doing post office business.

"We're a business, not a hotel, and our lobbies need to be used for our customers," said Anna Weller, USPS Postal Inspector for the Seattle Region.

Weller and Wood said most leave without incident and move on. If they don’t then police are called and in some cases, no trespassing orders have been issued.

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