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Seattle Amazon office building to house homeless shelter

The Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade shelter is scheduled to open in early 2020.


Amazon is building what it says will be the largest family homeless shelter in Washington State.


The facility will take up half the space in an Amazon office building in the centre of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.


The Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade shelter is scheduled to open in early 2020. It will be based over 63,000 square feet across eight floors and have space for 275 people.


Amazon has committed the location rent and utility free for the next 10 years.


The shelter will be based over 63,000 square feet across eight floors and have space for 275 people.


The shelter will have four floors designated for sleeping, including 30 rooms for families with medically fragile children. The other four floors will 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,” said 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.”


An Amazon blog post said: "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."


The tech effect


The move comes at a time when many cities are facing an affordability crisis, including a number in the US with a thriving tech sector, such as San Francisco and Seattle.


Amazon is the largest private employer in Seattle. The company estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 to 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy.


The causes of homelessness are complex but tech companies have been accused of contributing to affordability issues but failing to help address them.


Amazon is the largest private employer in Seattle.


There are around 11,199 homeless people in the Seattle King County area.


Last year, to help tackle the housing crisis, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to impose a ‘head tax’ on companies that gross over $20 million a year. However, it faced strong opposition from many of the businesses that would have been affected and a few weeks later, the decision was repealed.



In June, Amazon pledged to donate $8 million to help fight homelessness in its two headquarter cities, Seattle and Arlington, Virginia.



Public-private collaboration


The City of Seattle has launched an Innovation Advisory Council (IAC) with companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter. The IAC act as ’advisors’ on issues and policies affecting the city, where data and technology solutions could be of benefit.


In April, Seattle said homelessness and housing affordability would be the first key focus areas for the members, alongside earthquake preparedness. Seven projects are underway.


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