A unique family shelter built within Amazon’s newest corporate office building is set to open its doors to 275 moms, dads, and children in early 2020.
Mary’s Place Family Center will be the largest dedicated permanent shelter for families in the state
Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based charity whose slogan is “No one’s child should sleep outside,” are excited about their new Family Center shelter in the heart of downtown. Half of one of Amazon’s newest headquarter buildings will open in the spring of 2020 to become the largest dedicated permanent shelter for families in Washington State. — This incredible new space is 63,000 sq. ft. (5,953 sq. m), with room for 275 moms, dads, and kids each night. Two floors, 30 rooms, will be dedicated to guests in their special Popsicle Place program for families experiencing homelessness with critically ill children, tripling their current Popsicle Place capacity.
The new building will help shelter more than 400 additional families annually in the city of Seattle
For the first time-ever, Seattle-based charity Mary’s Place will have a permanent shelter in the heart of downtown Seattle—‘a shelter strategically designed, inch-by-inch, to maximise space, inspire community and support the dignity of guests in their journey out of homelessness’, say Amazon on their blog.
The shelter, Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade, will open in early 2020 within an Amazon office building in the center of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. The shelter will be the largest family shelter in Washington State with over 63,000 square feet (5853 square metres) of usable space to sleep 275 moms, dads, and children every night.
The new building will increase the organisation’s shelter capacity in King County by 50% and will help shelter more than 400 additional families each year in the city of Seattle. The new Family Center is part of Amazon’s $100 million commitment to Mary’s Place, including annual rent and utilities, over the next 10 years.
The shelter includes many free services to help families transition back into permanent housing
Stretched over eight floors, the shelter includes four floors designated for sleep, which is paramount to guests making a transformation in their lives. In addition to standard shelter space, the shelter also includes Diversion program sleep spaces, for families who need light assistance to quickly move into housing, and also 30 Popsicle Place rooms, for families with medically fragile children. In fact, this new shelter will triple the Popsicle Place capacity.
On the additional four floors, more unique shelter features include:
- an industrial kitchen
- a children’s play area
- and space for professional services such as pro bono legal support from Amazon’s legal team.
“Every inch of this space was intentionally designed with thoughtful collaboration between our partners at Amazon, GLY, Seneca, and Graphite, to best support the mission of Mary’s Place, and to get us closer to our goal of no child sleeping outside,” explained Mary’s Place Executive Director Marty Hartman. “This building is equal parts durable, flexible, warm, and welcoming, to ensure that families know that here, they will be respected, they are safe, and they are loved.”
The downtown Seattle location of the shelter, with close proximity to services, mass transit, and healthcare and hospital systems, will help remove barriers for families staying at the shelter and best supports the life-saving work of the shelter’s staff and their dozens of community partners, who are also often located within the downtown core.
Amazon’s downtown neighbours and the hundreds of Amazonians and other volunteers will continue to provide homework help, pro bono legal clinics, resume reviews, events like kid’s dance parties, clothing and baby supply drives and more.
“A sense of community is what moves these families forward,” explained Hartman.“The building itself and the professional services we provide are important, but genuine relationships with our neighbors—from Amazon employee volunteers, their families, and beyond, is what will ensure these families are able to transform their lives and propel them forward to finding permanent housing. We cannot wait to move in early next year to make even more connections.”
This is not the first time amazon has helped out Mary’s Place
In April 2016 and 2017, Amazon provided Mary’s Place with temporary use of two vacant buildings on its growing urban campus—both former hotels. Amazon upgraded and decorated these buildings and included utilities for more than 200 family members at a time.
In 2017, Amazon gifted the shelter 47,000 sq. ft. of space within Amazon’s newest headquarters to build a permanent location. Since then, the project has evolved to include an additional 16,000 square feet to best suit the needs of the organisation and its guests, providing shelter for 400 families each year, plus, for the first time, additional capacity for 75 temporary beds during weather emergencies.
The shelter, separated from Amazon’s office space, has its own private entrances and is carefully isolated acoustically from the Amazon office. This space will be a permanent home for Mary’s Place to use as long as they need it.
“This shelter will keep people safe, provide them with nutritious meals, easy access to transit, and allow them to really rest – many of the most important factors to helping families in their transformation. It also helps to have the overwhelming support of the community and feeling of hope. We’re so excited to see the construction come to life and we can’t wait to move in!” said a delighted Hartman.
Amazon not without controversy over workers‘ rights
While this news is clearly a huge positive for Amazon, they are not entirely without controversy; and though Amazon offers their staff $15 an hour, workers report injury claims denied, sweltering in warehouses and rising productivity demands. — reported The Guardian, in August.
Complaints include claims workers are being punished for injuries; the elimination of bonuses and stock options, which has lessened the impact of the wage rise; poor working conditions; higher productivity demands and the hiring of temporary workers who do not have the same benefits as Amazon staff.
Amazon responded with a spokesperson saying: “Simply put, people would not want to work for Amazon if our working conditions truly were as our critics portray them to be during this period of record low unemployment and plentiful job opportunities. But 250,000 people choose to work for Amazon in our fulfilment network.” The situation is delicate and ongoing. Learn more.
How to Help the Homeless
There are lots of ways to help homeless people. Donating food and clothing to homeless shelters is a great way to help. You could also volunteer your time with such an organisation. Educate yourself and others about homelessness, and share facts about homelessness with others. Use letters to your local newspaper, blog posts, and social media to spread the word about how homelessness is a problem and what others can do to help. Click to learn more