The company often blamed for the rising housing costs contributing to Seattle's homelessness crisis is offering a small bit of help. Amazon will allow the nonprofit Mary's Place to house 60 to 70 homeless families and some pets in an empty former hotel near Amazon's campus, the Seattle Times reports.
The 34,500-square-foot building, at 2213 Eighth Ave., is part of a lot the company acquired in 2014 as part of its new corporate campus.
Construction in that lot won’t start for a year — so Mary’s Place can run the building as a shelter, rent-free, during that time (it will pay for the utilities). Families are expected to start moving in Monday.
Here's how Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, described the setup to the Times:
Each family will have its own room with a bathroom, and there will be a kids’ playroom, a couple of common rooms, and a kitchen. Families will be able to stay in the center from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays, although their things can remain in their room while they’re gone. On weekends, the center will be open 24 hours so “kids can stay in their jammies,” Hartman said.
“This will become their home for now,” she said.
It's a small step. This building will help about 200 people for just one year. This year's one-night count found nearly 3,000 people sleeping on the streets of Seattle.
Amazon, meanwhile, is essentially building its employees their own neighborhood in downtown/South Lake Union. They've reportedly spent $4 billion building offices in Seattle. And, as the Times has written before, even while the company has transformed Seattle, it has offered little in the way of philanthropy or civic engagement. One attempt Amazon did make to help the homeless—offering them seasonal warehouse jobs—backfired.
So, this is a welcome shift, if a small one.
“We had a building that’s not being utilized and we had a crisis in our city,” Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, John Schoettler, told the Times. “It’s an opportunity for Amazon to be a good neighbor and do the right thing.”