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 saw 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 and a generous donor offered families respite in hotel rooms until they could access a family shelter. The wait for shelter grew, along with the number of families seeking help. Mary’s Place turned to the faith community for help and together opened their first crisis response night shelter for women and children in 2010 – one of the few places where a woman with children could find a safe place to sleep at night.
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 now home to the second Mary’s Place Day Center, providing resources for homeless families, as well as a location for more than for 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. In the continuing goal to reduce the barriers to shelter, Mary’s Place now accommodates single dads, extended families, and families with pets who are experiencing homelessness.
While Mary’s Place had doubled capacity and now had 400 beds each night across their shelters, the need continued to grow and more and more families were sleeping in places until for habitation.
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 the 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 a second 24/7 family center shelter in a King County-owned building. The doors opened for 30 family members in March of 2017, growing to 70 or more with the coming addition of showers and laundry facilities. Other sites are soon to open!
Today, using their system of efficiently and effectively converting unused buildings into temporary emergency family shelter, Mary’s Place has six 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 470 family members each night.
Mary’s Place is working to address some unique needs. Popsicle Place will provide a safe, nurturing, home-like setting for families with children who have life-threatening diseases; and Baby’s Best Start accommodates moms with newborns who need some extra time to rest and bond with their babies.
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.