In early 2020, Amazon’s newest corporate building will open its first homeless shelter for 275 people in Seattle, Washington. Mary’s Place, a charity based in Seattle, is excited to open its Family Center shelter in the city’s downtown next year. When Amazon’s newest headquarters opens next spring, it will house the largest dedicated permanent shelter in the state of Washington.

What will the homeless shelter offer?

The shelter is 63,000 sq. ft. (5,953 sq. m), with room for 275 moms, dads, and kids every single night. Two floors, 30 rooms, will be dedicated to guests For their special Popsicle Place program for homeless families with critically ill children, Amazon will dedicate two floors and 30 rooms. This will triple their current capacity for this special program. 

This will be the first time that Mary’s Place will have a dedicated permanent shelter in the city. According to Amazon, it is ‘a shelter strategically designed, inch-by-inch, to maximise space, inspire community and support the dignity of guests in their journey out of homelessness.’

The new building will expand the shelter capacity of Mary’s Place in King County by 50%. Plus, it will help an additional 400 families dealing with homelessness annually in 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.

amazon family center and homeless shelter

The shelter will have eight floors, with four used exclusively for sleep. On the other floors, some features available include an industrial kitchen, a children’s play area, and even a dog wash on-site for families with furry friends! Source: Amazon

Additional free features at the shelter

In addition to the sleeping space, the shelter also includes Diversion program sleep spaces, for families who only need light assistance before moving into permanent housing. The shelter will also have the Popsicle Place program mentioned previously.

“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.”

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the shelter is very close to services, mass transit, and hospitals and other sources of healthcare. This will help families staying at the shelter to gain access to important services, not to mention that many of the staff members who make the organization run live in the downtown area.

A community effort to create this homeless shelter

Amazon’s downtown neighbors, along with hundreds of workers and other volunteers, will come together to provide the following:

  • Homework help
  • Pro bono legal clinics
  • Resume reviews
  • Hold 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.”

How Amazon has helped Mary’s Place in the past

In April 2016 and 2017, Amazon allowed Mary’s Place short-term use of two vacant buildings on its growing urban campus. Amazon renovated and decorated these buildings and included utilities for more than 200 family members at a time.

In 2017, Amazon granted the shelter 47,000 sq. ft. of space inside the company’s newest headquarters to build a permanent homeless shelter. Since then, the project has expanded to include an extra 16,000 square feet to hold more families. It will also have space for 75 additional temporary beds during weather emergencies.

The shelter is, of course, separate from Amazon’s working space and includes its own private entrances. Builders have also taken care to add soundproofing to the shelter so that they aren’t disturbed by everyday office noise. Amazon has granted this space to Mary’s Place for as long as it needs 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!”

kitchen at homeless shelter at Amazon
This industrial kitchen will provide 600,000 meals a year. Source: Amazon

Final Thoughts on How a Corporate Giant and a City Will Work Together to Make This Homeless Shelter

Top real estate executive at Amazon, John Schoettler says, “We care about our neighbors, we care about this community. I think the impact of this building is all about inclusivity. Amazon intentionally located its headquarters in the heart of downtown Seattle and by doing so we are intentionally being very inclusive. Outward focus to our neighbors, whether you have a house or you don’t have a house, we’re all neighbors. We’re all in this city together.”

The homeless shelter should inspire other corporate giants and cities to do likewise.

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