Amazon's Seattle campus is using an extra building to provide temporary shelter for the homeless population.
The tech-giant Amazon is teaming up with Mary’s Place in Seattle to temporarily give shelter to homeless people in one of their campus buildings.
Amazon bought a former motel and dormitory in 2014 to add to their downtown Seattle campus but decided to instead tear down the building rather than include it. Since the demolition isn’t scheduled until next year, the company chose to put the building to use and aid in decreasing the rising homeless population by offering the building to people without homes.
Last month Mary’s Place moved quickly and provided furniture and renovations to make it livable and comfortable for its future residents. Several families were set to move in immediately following the renovations that week.
Marty Hartman, executive director at Mary’s Place, spoke of this partnership with Amazon:
“We are over-the-moon excited. It’s doubling our capacity.”
In a statement explaining their decision, Amazon explained:
“As we grow in Seattle, we recognize the importance of investing in our hometown in ways that benefit our neighbors and our employees.”
Some are critical of this move by Amazon but not because they don’t want homeless people to have shelter. They believe that it is Amazon’s civic duty to provide this housing and that they should be doing more to help the Seattle community as an effort to balance out the negative effects their company’s presence has had on the city.
The company’s expansion has proved to be detrimental for city-dwellers, causing the cost of living to skyrocket and thus pushing many people out of their homes because they can no longer afford them.
A University of Washington public policy professor, Rachel Fyall, agreed with naysayers and said,
“Homelessness is on the rise in Seattle, and the primary attribution is the rapid increase in housing costs. We have a rapidly growing economy. Amazon in particular has had a lot of growth in the downtown core.”
A brief look into Seattle’s homelessness problem reveals the alarming statistics associated with its rapid increase. Last November, the city announce a state of emergency on homelessness and allocated $5 million in funding normally set aside for natural disasters or damage from civil unrest.
The funding seems necessary, considering a recent one-night count of those living on the streets totaled 4,505 people, a 19% increase in homelessness over last year. In 2012, that one-night figure was 2,594.
As a response to this rising issue, Seattle has also become a “housing first” city, meaning it strives to first provide housing for the homeless and subsequently address the other issues that each individual is facing. Other issues range from drug abuse, untreated mental illness, or unemployment.
Amazon’s help is important and potentially life-saving, but Fyall notes that temporary shelter will not be the long-term solution to homelessness. Instead, it’s likely that the very companies that are in Seattle and indirectly causing the homeless population to increase may have to step up and contribute financially to stem the problem.
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