Amazon to build homeless facility — at its new headquarters


In video:Marty Hartman, executive director, Mary's Place and John Schoettler, Amazon VP of global real estate and facilities

The nation’s largest online retailer is about to undertake one of its biggest philanthropic ventures to date.

Amazon is devoting half of its new, six-story headquarters in downtown Seattle to a permanent homeless shelter, providing it with a 47,000 sq. ft. of space — totally rent free. The facility will have private rooms that can hold 65 families, or about 200 people. It is expected to open in early 2020.

Amazon had let the non-profit Mary’s Place organization move a shelter into the building, formerly a Travelodge motel, when the online giant purchased it last year. It was assumed that the shelter would move out when Amazon tore down the building to convert it into its office space. (The groundbreaking is set for the fall.) Instead, the retailer decided to make it permanent.

John Schoettler, Amazon’s VP for global real estate and facilities, told the New York Timesthat Amazon would spend “tens of millions of dollars” on the design and construction on the shelter’s portion of the building. Amazon will pay all the utilities for the Mary’s Place shelter. Mary’s Place, which runs seven transitional shelters in the Seattle area designed to house families until they can find permanent homes, will continue to pay the shelter staff.

“Mary’s Place does incredible, life-saving work every day for women, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the Seattle community,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon. “We are lucky to count them as neighbors and thrilled to offer them a permanent home within our downtown Seattle headquarters – Amazon employees and Mary’s Place residents will move in together in early 2020.”

The new Mary’s Place shelter will include a family resource center similar to those at Mary's Place Family Centers in North Seattle and White Center, where more than 40 local nonprofits and teams of community and corporate volunteers join Mary's Place staff onsite to provide services and work with families to help them secure permanent housing and employment.

To have a permanent downtown Seattle location within Amazon is a game-changer for Mary’s Place and the families we serve,” said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place. “We’ve loved being Amazon’s neighbor, and now the opportunity to move into their headquarters permanently is truly a dream come true.”