Amazon is jumping in to help with the homeless problem by providing a safe haven near its downtown campus.
The old Travelodge Motel at 8th and Bell is transforming into a temporary shelter for homeless families — more than 200 people.
“We were thrilled and excited to get a phone call to say, ‘Would you be interested in expanding your shelter in a building of ours?'” said Marty Hartman, the executive director for Mary’s Place, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless families by providing a place to stay and services to get them back on their feet.
Amazon now owns the former Travelodge building and this week said it will let Mary’s Place use it, rent free, as a shelter for a year.
“We were just like absolutely thrilled. It’s a dream come true,” added Hartman.
It will be a place for more than 200 people to sleep at night.
The shelter, which will only open during overnight hours Monday through Friday, doubles the amount of beds Mary’s Place has to offer.
“The reality is that this is not the end-all either. We’ll be still turning families away but we’ll be helping as many as we can and bringing in new families every day,” said Hartman.
The nonprofit will use the building free of charge, until Amazon begins construction at the lot in the spring of 2017.
At that time Mary’s Place will have to find a new location.
“We’re scrappy, we’re innovative, we have teams of professionals working year-round constantly looking for the next site, looking for the next new shelter to move families inside so we know that some things will close,” said Hartman.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray recently declared a state of emergency on the homeless issue and is applauding Amazon’s move.
“In the fact that they’re willing to partner in an area that is the most difficult and most controversial in the city is pretty impressive. We’ve got a crisis so we need businesses like Amazon to step up. We need nonprofits to step up, but we really need the federal government to turn to their traditional role of helping provide affordable housing that actually prevents people from ending up in homelessness in the first place,” said Murray.
Some people who work near the temporary shelter say they like the idea that homeless families will benefit.
The shelter will be ready to start accepting homeless families as early as Monday night.
The shelter will also be open 24/7 on weekends, officials say.