Mary’s Place and Amazon announced that the Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade, a one-of-a-kind, permanent family shelter built inside an Amazon office building with capacity for up to 200 moms, dads, and children experiencing homelessness each night, is now open. The shelter, which began housing families at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Seattle, is expected to support more than 1,000 family members per year. Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade increased Mary’s Place’s overall shelter capacity in King County by 40%. It is the largest family shelter in Washington state at 63,000 square feet and is nestled within the heart of Amazon’s downtown Seattle headquarters.
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The eight-floor shelter began welcoming families in March, and the timing of its opening was critical for families experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The unique design, which includes private rooms, enables Mary’s Place to provide safe, dignified, and socially distanced accommodation, and the shelter’s durability allows for extensive deep cleaning practices. The facility has tripled the size of the Mary’s Place Popsicle Place program, which provides shelter and support for families experiencing homelessness with medically-fragile children. The shelter is also safely supporting Babies Best Start, a Mary’s Place program for expecting and new moms and their babies.
“At Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade, our kids are able to safely finish school – our employees watch children for extended hours to support working parents who lost access to childcare – and moms and dads are able to search for new jobs on new laptops,” explained Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary’s Place. “This new shelter, opening when it did, has been our saving grace. It was our neighbors at Amazon who 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. 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.”
Born from a unique partnership between Amazon and Mary’s Place, Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade opened just as vulnerable communities, such as the elderly, low-income families, and families with members with certain pre-existing conditions, were impacted disproportionately by the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to new families seeking shelter, Mary’s Place moved some of its most vulnerable families out of other smaller congregate shelters and into The Regrade, including children with muscular dystrophy, babies waiting on cleft palate and ear reconstruction surgeries, older adults aged 60+, and many other families with high-risk individuals. Nearly one-third of families staying at Mary’s Place have family members who are at high-risk for contracting the virus. The family center’s intentional layout and dedicated onsite health services have made it a safe space for families experiencing homelessness to practice social distancing with access to medical support and isolation, if needed. In addition, Amazon purchased critical items for the shelter to give its guests and frontline staff more peace of mind about their health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak, including face protectors, ear thermometers, medicines, and more.
“The opening of this facility helps to fill a critical gap – a place for families where they can find safety, access to services, and begin the process of finding stable permanent housing. I am appreciative of businesses such as Amazon, who are stepping up to help those in need and continuing to build a stronger sense of community,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “Amazon’s partnership with Mary’s Place helps bring families in from the cold and rain and helps them find a sense of hope for the future.”
“No family facing an emergency should feel they are without a place to go,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This new emergency shelter will serve hundreds of parents and kids, and provide pathways to permanent homes. The partnership between Mary’s Place and Amazon exemplifies the collaborative solutions between community organizations and local businesses that will help solve the homelessness crisis in our region and serve our community during the pandemic.”
“Now more than ever we need strong partnerships and support for our service providers to help sustain our most vulnerable through this public health emergency. The opening of the new Mary’s Place shelter came at a crucial moment, helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Mary’s Place and Amazon are using their unique resources and skills to address the crisis of families with children living outside, during this unprecedented time.”
“I’ve long been excited for this shelter to open, but I never could have imagined how critical the timing would be. I’m so glad we could provide this safe and dignified space to Mary’s Place that’s a “home for now” for many,” said John Schoettler, Vice President, Amazon Global Real Estate and Facilities. “During a time when it’s so easy to feel isolated and disconnected, I want everyone at Mary’s Place – the moms, dads, children, and incredible staff – to know that we are in this together, and they are not alone.”
To provide Mary’s Place guests privacy, the new shelter is separated from Amazon’s offices with its own private entrances and acoustical isolation. Additional features include: a large dining room for social distancing, an industrial kitchen with commercial cooking equipment that will serve the entire Mary’s Place organization, space for Amazon’s legal team to provide pro bono support – both in person and now virtually – recreation spaces for children and teens, and more. The proximity of the shelter to downtown Seattle will help families overcome barriers to housing through direct access to community services, mass transit, healthcare and hospital systems, and more.
Amid COVID-19, the unique setup and design of the Mary’s Place Family Center in The Regrade has served as inspiration for future Mary’s Place shelters. Mary’s Place recently secured a new temporary shelter in Seattle’s Central District with ample space for social distancing, isolation, or quarantine if needed. Read more about Mary’s Place’s swift and expansive response to COVID-19 across their shelter network here.