Amazon has helped many homeless families in the Seattle area, and now in a partnership with Mary’s Place (the only crisis shelter for homeless families, including kids dealing with cancer and chronic diseases)—the company is building a shelter in one of its new state-of-the-art buildings on their urban campus. This will provide Mary’s Place with residence for 65 families, or nearly 200 people and their pets.
“This is a true blessing for Mary’s Place and for all the families. The economy or circumstances should not mean a newborn or a 3 year old with cancer should sleep outside. Amazon has shown their heart by providing a permanent downtown Seattle location for our families,” said Mary’s Place board chair & Founder/Publisher of The Fresh Toast JJ McKay.
The state of homelessness in America continues to be an issue that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 564,708 people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2015. They defined homelessness as either sleeping outside, staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world, has been partnering with Mary’s Place to fight homelessness in Seattle. Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donated $1 million dollars in a challenge match to Mary’s Place. As the company continues to expand their state-of-the-art offices, they also assume a larger part of Seattle’s infrastructure.
“I see it as this huge gift because everywhere we go, we end up leaving,” Mary’s Place executive director Marty Hartman told the New York Times. “Of course, that’s our model of using buildings until they are to be developed, but you come in and become a fabric of the neighborhood you’re in, and then you say goodbye. That’s a hard thing for a lot of people to do.”
Amazon’s vice president for global real estate and facilities John Schoettler has said the company’s gift was worth “tens of millions of dollars” to the construction of the Mary’s Place facilities. Amazon had previously given residence to Mary’s Place into an old motel building they owned, but now will share this office space and pay all the utilities for the building. Mary’s Place will continue to pay wages for its own staff.
The Seattle mayor called a “state of emergency” back in 2015 regarding the city’s homelessness. Amazon’s move to combat that problem is unprecedented for two main reasons. According to the NAEH president Nan Roman, this is the first time a private company has incorporated a shelter into their office space.
With more than 30,000 employees, Amazon is Seattle’s largest private employer. Its reputation has suffered in recent years, thanks to a deep investigative NYTimes piece that painted a harsh, cutthroat work environment. In addition, the company’s employers had earned the not-so-flattering nickname of “Am-holes” after moving into blue-collar Seattle neighborhoods.
This philanthropic move perhaps shows a change in attitude of Amazon’s community efforts. Schoettler told the NYTimes the Mary’s Place move was “permanent,” at least until “homelessness is solved.” This move seems like it could be part of that solution.