Amazon Devotes New Seattle Headquarters Space to Shelter Homeless

Amazon will create a permanent space to shelter homeless families in its growing downtown Seattle headquarters campus, the retail and technology giant announced Wednesday.

The company is donating 47,000 square feet in a building set for construction this fall on Eighth Avenue to Mary’s Place, a shelter for homeless women, children, and families. There will be 65 rooms and space for some 200 people.

The news comes two weeks after Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, real estate developer, and philanthropist, pledged $30 million to fund a housing project for homeless families in Seattle, in partnership with the city and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Taken together, the moves show Seattle’s wealthy tech industry titans and major corporations are getting serious about addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.

The unsheltered population in King County during a One Night Count taken in January 2016 was 4,505, up 19 percent from the 2015 count. Some 3,500 Seattle Public School students experienced homelessness during the last school year.

Mary’s Place has operated a temporary shelter in a former motel on the Amazon building site for the last year. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZNgranted the shelter space in the vacant building and paid to upgrade it. The corporation’s employees also volunteer there.

The colocation of the permanent shelter will provide more such opportunities, according to Amazon.

“Mary’s Place does incredible, life-saving work every day for women, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the Seattle community,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in a prepared statement. “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 permanent space for Mary’s Place is the second major homelessness initiative to be integrated into Amazon’s growing campus. Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to partner with FareStart—a culinary job training program that has helped homeless people get back on their feet and into a new career—on a program to create five new eateries in Amazon buildings and help people learn additional skills to earn a higher income.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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