Amazon Opens the State’s Largest Homeless Shelter Amid COVID-19 Crisis

by Ellen Glover
May 26, 2020
Amazon has partnered with Mary's Place to open a homeless shelter in Seattle
Photo: Amazon

Since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, nearly 45 percent of Washington households have lost income, according to preliminary Census data reported by Axios, with about 16 percent of respondents experiencing housing insecurity. In an effort to help, Amazon announced last week it partnered with Mary’s Place to permanently convert part of its Seattle campus into the largest family shelter in the state.

Located in the Regrade area, the 63,000-square-foot facility can accommodate up to 200 families a night. The shelter takes up eight floors, four of which are sleeping quarters where each family gets its own room. It has a health clinic, computer labs, recreational areas, a rooftop garden with bike tracks and a dedicated space for Amazon to provide monthly pro-bono legal assistance for issues related to credit, debt, personal injury and tenant rights. There’s also an industrial kitchen that can produce about 600,000 meals a year.

John Schoettler, Amazon’s VP of global real estate and facilities, made it clear in a recent blog post that the Mary’s Place Family Center has the space to follow all social distancing protocols. Additionally, the facility is being regularly sanitized and residents and staff are both being supplied with personal protective and medical equipment.

The shelter began accepting occupants in March, just as COVID-19 began affecting the state. While the timing was not intentional, it is optimal. Homeless shelters have proven to be hotbeds for spreading the virus and Mary’s Place Family Center could be a clean, safe alternative for families who need some extra support.

“This new shelter, opening when it did, has been our saving grace. It was our Amazon family that recognized what we needed before we ever realized it, and this space ensures we don’t have to return families to homelessness during this unprecedented and trying time,” Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, said in a statement. “I always knew this shelter would be a beacon of light in the community, and the critical support we’ve received from our neighbors at Amazon and beyond has been life-saving ever since this pandemic began.”

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