Amazon is building a homeless shelter inside its Seattle headquarters — here’s a look inside

A view of the new Mary's Place Family Center, under construction, from the street.

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A view of the new Mary’s Place Family Center, under construction, from the street.
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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

  • Amazon is building a homeless shelter on its Seattle campus.
  • The shelter will be run by Mary’s Place, a nonprofit that has worked with the company for years.
  • It’s expected to be the largest family shelter in Washington state. Amazon employees will have opportunities to volunteer there.
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Two years ago, Marty Hartman, the executive director of Mary’s Place homeless shelter in Seattle, received a package from Amazon: The company presented her with a golden key symbolizing access to eight floors of a building in its Seattle headquarters.

At the time, Mary’s Place had been operating a homeless shelters out of a Travelodge hotel on Amazon’s campus. Amazon had always planned to renovate the hotel for its own use. So, in 2017, the company offered Hartman a permanent space in one of Amazon’s corporate offices. Now, that space is almost finished.

When the new shelter opens in 2020, it will have the capacity to serve 275 people per night. That’s a small portion of the city’s homeless population – around 12,500 people in King County, where Seattle located – but it’s expected to be the largest family shelter in Washington state.

Take a look at how the construction is coming along.


Amazon has had a complicated relationship with the city of Seattle since building its campus, which is now 10 million square feet, there in 2010.

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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

After Amazon’s headquarters were constructed, Seattle saw a considerable rise in rents and home prices. From 2007 to 2017, the median rent in Seattle increased by nearly 42% compared to just 18% nationwide.

As properties became more expensive, some of Seattle’s low-income residents found they couldn’t afford to live there. Homelessness in Seattle has risen by 9% each year since 2014. Some residents and experts attribute this rise to Amazon’s presence in the city.


The new shelter is located across the street from the Amazon Spheres — prominent glass domes that double as an employee workspace and greenhouse.

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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

Homeless occupants will share the new building with Amazon employees. The company has offered to pay for the space’s utilities, maintenance, and security for the next 10 years. It’s also covering the rent.

“Maybe someday, if homelessness in Seattle is resolved, we can turn that back into space for ourselves,” John Schoettler, an Amazon real estate executive, told the Seattle Times. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s theirs as long as they need it.”


The space is designed to be a temporary shelter, so Mary’s Place expects 400 families to stay there each year.

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Graphite Design Group

The nonprofit says it will keep room available for 275 additional people during weather emergencies.

“Every single one of them will feel loved, safe, and invited in,” Hartman said in a video about the project. “It’s a place where their kids will be able to be kids, and their parents can work on the tough stuff.”


The new shelter resembles a motel. Families are given individual, private rooms.

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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

“Individual rooms are an incredible gift to families to maintain their individual dignity,” Hartman told the Seattle Times. The rooms also allow families to bring their pets.


The space comes with “hygiene areas” where occupants can take baths.

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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

This is the first Mary’s Place shelter that comes with bathtubs (the others just have showers).


Two floors of the shelter will be reserved for families of children with life-threatening illnesses.

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Graphite Design Group

There are 30 rooms in total for these families. The shelter will also have health and legal clinics available during the day. Amazon has offered to provide pro bono legal counseling.


The seventh floor of the building will offer a place for Amazon employees to volunteer by teaching coding classes, reading to children, and offering resume help to adults.

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Graphite Design Group

After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos learned about Mary’s Place from one his employees who volunteered there, he donated $1 million to the organization in 2016.

Last year, Bezos established the Day One Fund, which sets aside $2 billion to support homeless families and develop early education programs in underserved communities.


An industrial kitchen will produce 600,000 meals per year.

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Mitch Pittman/Amazon

These meals aren’t just for occupants of the shelter on Amazon’s campus; many will be delivered to 10 additional Mary’s Place shelters throughout Seattle.

The nonprofit is known for repurposing dilapidated buildings and turning them into temporary homeless housing. It currently operates shelters in a former bank building, a former sheriff’s office, and a former restaurant.


Mary’s Place will be responsible for funding its own operations, programming, and staff in the space. The organization told CityLab that those expenses could amount to $2 million a year.

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Graphite Design Group

In addition to Amazon donations, the nonprofit is funded by government grants, which are payed for by taxes.

Last year, Amazon was instrumental in repealing Seattle’s “head tax,” which taxed employees of companies earning more than $20 million per year. Money from that tax would have gone directly to housing and homeless services.