Building a home with heart
For the first time-ever, Mary’s Place will have a permanent shelter in the heart of downtown Seattle—a shelter strategically designed, inch-by-inch, to maximize space, inspire community and support the dignity of guests in their journey out of homelessness.
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 of usable space to sleep 275 moms, dads, and children every night. The new building will increase the organization’s shelter capacity in King County by 50 percent 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.
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 neighbors 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.”
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 organization 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!” continued Hartman.