May 21, 2020 - Health

Amazon launches partnership to create largest family shelter in Washington

Mary's Place shelter in seattle in an amazon office building

Mary's Place Family Center in The Regrade. Photo: Mary's Place

Amazon has announced a partnership with Mary's Place to create a permanent family shelter in Seattle that would house up to 200 family members, including those who may be experiencing economic hardship fueled by the pandemic.

The big picture: Nearly half of U.S. households have lost income since March, according to preliminary Census data. In Washington state, nearly 45% of households lost income and about 16% surveyed said they're experiencing housing insecurity.

Why it matters: Those who are experiencing homelessness have been especially susceptible to health issues during the pandemic in part because they're unable to wash their hands frequently or practice proper social distancing in shared or crowded shelters.

Details: The shelter, called Mary's Place Family Center in The Regrade, is now the largest in Washington state, increasing King County's shelter capacity by 40%.

  • The building began housing some families at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March. It offers private rooms and ramped up its medical and safety supplies for families to social distance while seeking care.
  • Nearly one-third of families staying have family members who are at high-risk for contracting the virus, according to a joint statement.
  • The facility also houses children with muscular dystrophy, babies waiting on cleft palate and ear reconstruction surgeries, and adults 60 years and older.

What they're saying:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: “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."
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan: “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."

The bottom line: Housing security is needed now more than ever, especially since overcrowded facilities are hot beds for transmissible diseases.

Go deeper: Coronavirus crisis drives housing advocates' push for rent and mortgage relief

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