WEST RIDGE — For the last four years, Rogers Park resident Eileen Burns has gone weeks without receiving mail — if it even comes at all.
Even worse, Burns said, is that confidential and important mail has been delivered to her neighbors or complete strangers.
“Just imagine that someone has your bank statements,” Burns said. “I have missed so much mail going back four years.”
According to officials with the U.S. Postal Service, the problems that Burns and hundreds of her Far North Side neighbors have experienced will soon be addressed.
After years of complaints from neighbors, officials with the U.S. Postal Service met with West Ridge residents Monday to discuss their concerns with local mail service and ways to solve the problem.
The meeting was called by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and Alds. Debra Silverstein (50th), Maria Hadden (49th) and Harry Osterman (48th), who have been flooded with complaints from constituents about problems with mail delivery.
“All of us have been inundated [with complaints] about our mail service,” Silverstein said. “We need our voices to be heard.”
Complaints about mail service in Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Ridge include some residents going days and weeks without delivery, lost packages, deliveries to the wrong address, deliveries late at night and the inaccessibility of local post office management. The complaints center around two Far North Side post offices, one at 1723 W. Devon Ave. and at 3401 W. Devon Ave.
“The underlying message here is that change is needed and it’s needed now,” Schakowsky told post office officials at the meeting. “[Problems] happen over and over again. They happen uniquely in this community. You need to solve the problem.”
Chicago-area Postal Service officials said solutions to the issues will be implemented at the two post offices starting this week. Solutions include: increasing mail carrier staffing, increasing clerk staffing and holding audits on the local mail service at least weekly, said Randy Stines, Chicago district manager for the Postal Service.
“That is something we do know how to fix,” Stines said. “We’ve gotten it fixed in a lot of places in Chicago.”
Another issue residents want addressed is the lack of permanent mail carriers that can get to know the neighborhood and its residents, and therefore help problems like wrong deliveries.
West Ridge resident Diane Bonner said her mother’s mail is frequently delivered as late as 10 p.m. Previous mail carriers who stayed on the route for long periods knew such practices would be concerning to an elderly woman, Bonner said.
“My mother, if she hears someone at the door at 10 p.m., an alarm goes off within her,” Bonner said. “We have seniors that are concerned. We need carriers that know us.”
Some of the local staffing problems are due to the financial issues facing the U.S. Postal Service, which ended 2019 with $11 billion in outstanding debt, Stines said. Still, there are efficiencies and procedures that can be put in place to better local service, post office officials said.
“I understand your frustrations,” said Chicago Postmaster Wanda Prater. “It takes meetings like this to sometimes come together. Is everything going to get solved tonight? No it’s not, but it has to start somewhere.”
While they shared their constituents’ concerns with local mail service, elected officials at the meeting reiterated their support for the Postal Service. Schakowsky said she is not in favor of calls to privatize the federal mail service. Ald. Hadden said the Postal Service is one of the country’s most “amazing” institutions, even if the local operation needs some tweaking.
“We just need it to work for the rest of our community,” Hadden said of the Postal Service.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.