Mary’s Place was established in 1999 as day center for homeless women. Women were walking from service to service, carrying their home on their backs trying to get their physical needs met. They were waiting in line for hours for meals, laundry, medical care, benefits, to use a free phone, or to apply for housing and employment. With a grant from the Boeing Employee’s Community Fund and the passion of a dedicated board and staff, Mary’s Place opened its doors. Together, they developed the structure and daily schedule that remains in effect today: two meals a day, hygiene facilities, showers, laundry, medical care, support groups and ample resources for housing, employment, and benefits.
In 2010 the impacts of the nationwide recession were still being felt and at Mary’s Place they were seeing a surge of homeless women with children. It was heartbreaking to turn these families away at the end of each day to hide in restrooms, sleep in a car, or ride the bus all night to stay safe and warm. Mary’s Place turned to the faith community for help and together opened their first crisis response night shelter for women and children, a shelter that moves between 20 participating congregations, in 2010 – one of the few places where a woman with children could find a safe place to sleep at night.
Soon after, our first permanent shelter opened in a building awaiting development at 4th & Bell, providing night shelter for 48 women and children. This “on loan” empty building started our model of using empty buildings awaiting other uses to create emergency shelter. Mary’s Place has received loans of empty buildings from PEMCO, Vulcan Inc., the City of Seattle, King County, private owners, and others. We are always looking for more!
The Mary’s Place Family Center in North Seattle is located in a building on loan from the City of Seattle. As well as providing beds for 100 family members, it is one of four Family Centers, providing resources for homeless families, as well as a location for more than 40 co-located local service providers
In the spring of 2016, Mary’s Place partnered with Amazon to turn an old Travelodge hotel into a shelter for just over 200 family members, giving the organization a total of 400 beds each night. When that building was demolished to make way for a new Amazon Headquarters building, the company converted a former Days Inn hotel they owned into a new shelter to replace it. Mary’s Place in The Regrade shelters 300 family members and serves as a Family Center for services each day. In the continuing goal to reduce the barriers to shelter, Mary’s Place in The Regrade accommodates extended families and families with pets who are experiencing homelessness.
Thanks to an outpouring of support from donors and more than 40 local businesses, the annual No Child Sleeps Outside Crowdfunding campaign raised just over $4 million in 45 days at the end of 2016! Starbucks, the Starbucks Foundation, and the Schultz Family Foundation each donated $1 million to the effort. With that additional funding, Mary’s Place moved quickly to open an additional 24/7 family center shelter in a King County-owned building in White Center.
The latest Mary’s Place Family Center and shelter for 80 family members opened in a King County-owned building in Northshore in September, 2017.
Today, using their system of efficiently and effectively converting unused buildings into temporary emergency family shelter, Mary’s Place has a day center for homeless women, and seven night shelters available for moms and dads with children that provide a warm bed, two meals, and a community of support for a total of 680 family members each night.
Mary’s Place is working to address some unique needs. The Popsicle Place program provides a safe, nurturing, home-like setting with professional medical care for families with children who have life-threatening diseases; Baby’s Best Start accommodates moms with newborns who need some extra time to rest and bond with their babies, and the Mary’s Place Front Door provides resources and flexible funding to assist currently unsheltered families.
The Mary’s Place model is simple – partner with anyone and everyone who can help to address the issue of family homelessness: congregations, individuals, cities and counties, and businesses of all sizes.