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AIDS Foundation files lawsuit against U.S. Postal Service


Claim Black residents downtown not receiving mail

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is suing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), alleging in Los Angeles federal court that the agency discriminates against Black residents of single-room-occupancy buildings in downtown’s Skid Row area by refusing to deliver mail to their individual mailboxes.

AHF’s lawsuit asserts that USPS’ delivery practices involving non-White SRO residents constitutes unlawful discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the federal government and its agencies to practice equal protection.

AHF says it currently houses 1,417 people in 13 SRO properties in Los Angeles.

“In defiance of California law, the USPS refuses to distribute mail individually to the permanent residents of these SRO buildings despite the availability of locking mail receptacles compliant with all USPS standards,’’ Conrad Sison, AHF’s assistant general counsel, said in a statement.

“The USPS arbitrarily has chosen to classify all SROs as hotels for transient guests even though SROs serve as primary residences for people just like apartments. The whole scenario is ridiculous and an unnecessary bureaucratic turf war between the California Legislature and the USPS.’’

The suit’s plaintiff, Shawn Jenkins, is a Black resident of AHF’s Madison Hotel, and an employee of AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 1.

AHF maintains that California law requires landlords to have an individual, locking mailbox for each SRO tenant. However, the USPS is refusing to deliver mail into those individual mailboxes, instead dumping dozens or hundreds of pieces of mail into one big pile at the front desk of each SRO property each day, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit health care organization alleges.

“There appears to be inherent unfairness, classism, and racism in the USPS’ willingness to deliver mail individually to each tenant in a multi-unit apartment building in, say, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, while just dumping the mail in a big pile in each SRO hotel on Skid Row and getting out of there as quickly as possible,’’ Jenkins said.

“Metaphorically and literally, it telegraphs a message that the post office wants to have as little as possible to do with the 100% poor and 60% Black tenants at these SROs,’’ he said.

AHF calls itself the “largest provider of HIV medical care in the world.’’