Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer, is taking home delivery to the next level: instead of just delivering goods to customers’ homes, the company will now be providing actual homes for the homeless at its new six-story headquarters in downtown Seattle.
Seattle non-profit Mary’s Place was already using space in Amazon’s existing headquarters, a converted Travelodge motel, purchased last year. The shelter expected it would have to move out when the time came for Amazon to demolish the building and reconstruct it as office space.
“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.”
Fully half of the new headquarters will be devoted to shelter for the homeless, providing 47,000 square feet that can accommodate up to 65 families or around 200 people. Both rent and utilities will be paid by Amazon.
There will be a family resource center where those passing through the shelter can find help securing permanent housing and employment. The center will be run by local nonprofits, corporate volunteers, and Mary’s Place staff, similar to Mary’s Place Family Centers in North Seattle and White Center.
According to John Schoettler, Amazon’s VP for global real estate and facilities, in a statement to the New York Times, the design and construction of the new facility are projected to cost Amazon tens of millions of dollars – and that’s just for the shelter. Amazon’s offices will comprise a separate expense. But to the company, it’s a worthwhile investment.
“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.”
The new headquarters is projected to open in 2020. Mary’s Place, which runs seven transitional shelters in the Seattle area, will continue to pay the shelter staff once the new arrangement takes hold.