Marty’s comments from our Spring Luncheon

Executive Director Marty Hartman made these comments at our Spring Benefit Luncheon on May 3.

We have been meeting at this luncheon for over eight years, and this year is the biggest year yet for Mary’s Place…our crazy dream that no child should sleep outside is starting to become a reality!

Our Mary’s Place Family Center became a reality in June of 2015. Mayor Murray and the City of Seattle allowed us to use an empty city building to bring hundreds of families inside to receive services and resources, with 22 non-profits all at one location.

It is hard to remember that we got in the business of sheltering moms and children just five ago. It seemed that no cared, and no one else was helping. The tears on faces was too much to endure. We sat down and asked moms how we could help. They told us they wanted a safe place, they wanted help, and they wanted a community that lifted them up. We listened, and got to work. Now, at our Family Center, moms and dads attend  GED, ESL, parenting and computer classes, they access medical care, get assistance with resumes, and online job searches and house hunting, and they find family support with mental health counseling.

While parents work and learn, children are at school or engaged in enrichment activities including Power Half Hour homework, dress up, video games, music classes, poetry writing at our on-site Kids Club, a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club.

And if that wasn’t dreaming big enough, our Amazon family came to our aid to double our capacity of shelter beds by giving us a new home…and does it sparkle! They have provided all the tenant improvements, the utilities, stocked our shelves with diapers, wipes, medicine, cereal, blankets, sheets, and a whole lotta love!  Their employees are sitting beside us, helping us write resumes and call landlords, and tutoring our children. Most importantly, they invited us in, made us feel welcomed and safe and reminded us we are not alone. Those are gifts that last a lifetime!

We were still pinching ourselves and realizing all these gifts were not a dream when I got an email from Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. He said he wanted to do more…he wanted to do something personally to help homeless families. He reached out with a one day match challenge. He will personally match all donations received today up to a total of one million dollars. With your help we could raise $2 million today! That is even a BIGGER DREAM come true!

You might be asking…why Mary’s Place? Why homeless families?

To us it is simple because our model is simple…partner with anyone and everyone who will help homeless women and families move forward faster. We know we are so much better together. We know everyone has something to offer. We know homeless families will not make it out of homelessness by themselves. So it is with our 3,510 volunteers, 164 corporate partners, 64 foundations, 125 nonprofits, 113 congregations, 4,759 donors and one gracious city that we operate our two day centers and six overnight shelters. Together, we are able to provide an address and phone for those who don’t have one, restore dignity through showers and laundry services, and offer nourishment with healthy food. We provided over 198,000 meals last year. The only thing that outpaces that is the number of diapers, wipes, and hugs we give away! Together, we created 222 resumes, turned in 2,813 housing applications and moved 148 families into more stable housing. We had 60,000 overnight stays last year and are on pace to provide over 100,000 shelter nights this year. If our calculations are right, that would almost double the number of sweet dreams!

Our staff work to get a child get connected to school, listen to the pain of a mom who has left everything behind, including her self-esteem, hug a child who has had to give up their pet to be in shelter, sit beside teens who are so embarrassed to be told by their peers that they smell, and remind dads that they are not failures for seeking shelter…rather they are heroes for asking for help.

Most importantly, our model empowers families to take charge of their situation. At Mary’s Place, we know the prescription for increasing self-esteem is asking for your needs to be met. We constantly remind our families their need to be loved is the most beautiful, wonderful and strongest part of who they are. It’s how they begin to heal and create lasting change.

At $14 per bed night we have a cost effective and efficient model, yet each night our hearts ache over the kids who go to sleep next to parents in cars, doorways, and under bushes. We must do more.

Laughter is common at Mary’s Place, you hear it often and loud. But I know in my heart that hurt and fear is there also. FEAR an abusive ex might return and hurt the children, FEAR of what to do with a special needs child because you need to work, so you can have your own roof, but also need to watch over your child, FEAR of what the doctor might tell you. Sometimes, all we can offer is a hug and love…sometimes it is enough…and sometimes it falls short. But we keep giving hugs.

We are meeting more and more families who have children with life threatening illnesses. They are seeking refuge in their cars in hospital parking lots because they have sacrificed everything, including their homes, to give their children a chance to live. We don’t believe this is right. Where is the dignity for that mom, having to watch her child get sick by the side of the car where they live after chemo, and then try to rest until the next wave of nausea. Providing safe shelter for all homeless families is our BIG dream…and today we want to share our plans for Popsicle Place.

Popsicle Place will be a home for children experiencing life threatening illnesses. Families can stay in this “home for now” while their children wait for chemo treatments, lab results, or to recover. We will partner with Ladybug House, Dr Brian Cartin from Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Dr Ben Danielson from Odessa Brown Clinic. We know about the circle of life…last year at least six homeless children with cancer lost the fight while living in a car…where is the dignity? Where is the peace for those parents? Mary’s Place will provide that, and we are committed to opening at least two residences to stop this tragedy.

At Mary’s Place we’ve have had a baby boom! Everyday we talk to moms with newborns struggling to find a shelter bed so they can stay together.  So we are also announcing Mary’s Place Baby’s Best Start! Thanks to our friends at Vulcan, we now have a shelter for homeless moms and newborns in South Lake Union. It’s a smaller shelter where babies can thrive without being exposed to lots of people. Our homeless moms will receive what other moms in America take as a given…six weeks to bond with their baby, and get adequate sleep, nutrition and support from the community around them.

Both of these programs will be under the direction of our incredible nurse, Kelly Brewer, and our volunteer doctor, advocate and friend, Dr. Joe Sherman. We love them!

If you thinking that is so great, but it’s not enough! You are right.

I wish you could witness the energy, commitment, and passion of our board. Now we can see a day when kids are SAFE AND SECURE. Together we will work until every child is inside at night. Our goal is 750 beds in three years, 1,000 beds in five years. This will help solve the problem but we can only do this with you by our side. Please say that you will not only join us, but invite others. That would be a dream come true!

We appreciate you and know we wouldn’t accomplish our crazy dreams without you!

Mary’s Place and Amazon Team Up to Transform a Vacant Hotel into Shelter and Stability!

Friends of  Mary’s Place know how it breaks our hearts to have to turn families away at night when there is just no more room. So many of you have responded to the call when we’ve raised money to open new shelters – but the need continues to grow. We are excited to share that a recent gift from Amazon has doubled our capacity to bring families inside!

On April 18th we opened the doors to the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms, an old Travelodge hotel in downtown Seattle that Amazon has provided rent-free for one year and converted to shelter for 200 family members. Filling a need in the homeless community, the Guest Rooms will also accommodate extended families and families with pets.

In response to the civil state of emergency declaration on homelessness, Amazon reached out to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office to find out if their building could be used by Mary’s Place as an emergency family shelter. Construction on the facility isn’t scheduled until Spring of 2017, and Amazon saw a unique opportunity to partner with Mary’s Place to ensure that no child sleeps outside in our community.

Not only has Amazon gifted the building, but the company is also covering utilities and the costs of upgrading and converting the space. Hearing about the project, Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel donated hundreds of desks, chairs, and tables from the hotel to outfit each of the rooms.

We are so grateful to all the individuals and organizations that have made it possible to open this life saving shelter – Amazon, Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council and all our friends at the City of Seattle, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Kinzer Partners, Tom Kinzman, Perkins + Will, GLY Construction, Coughlin Porter Linden, and our amazing site search committee, led by Kris Richey Curtis.

Amazon has also partnered with Mary’s Place to provide an easy way to access our Wish List to donate supplies for the new shelter: www.amazon.com/marysplace.

Look for an information to the Guest Rooms Open House Celebration soon!

Can you help with our Wish List?

We’re excited to partner with our friends at Amazon to share this special Mary’s Place page where you can order items off our Wish List!

We distribute hundreds of diapers, bras, socks, and more every week. Your help filling our shelves will make a huge difference in the lives of moms, dads, and kids who are experiencing homelessness. Through the end of March, the items you donate from the Wish List will be shipped directly to Mary’s Place to help families on the road to housing stability.

And with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service, your order of essentials can arrive at Mary’s Place every week or month!

Thank you for making the journey out of homelessness a little easier for families in our community!

My Fiancé Dumped Me a Month Before the Wedding, So I Turned It Into a Charity Event

Dana's mom, Karen, dancing with the guests!
Dana’s mom, Karen, dancing with the guests!

The person I thought was the love of my life called off our wedding one month before we were supposed to get married.

I’m trying to think of something funny to say about it, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m making super-gentle jokes, like “I’ll probably be ready to go on Tinder in about 15 years” and “Well, I didn’t faint today, so that’s a score.” Actually, you can’t really call those jokes. They’re basically my small way of showing my family and friends that I still kind of have a personality and I’m probably not going to kill myself.

Even though I’m not really in a jokey mood, I want to tell this story because I’d never heard anything like it. Weddings get cancelled — I get it — but not like this.

I thought my ex and I were happy together. We had known each other for 15 years and been in a serious relationship for the last three of them. We were engaged for a year, and we were going to get married six weeks from when he dumped me.

Invitations were out. Three weeks before he broke up with me, we bought wedding rings. Five days before he broke up with me, we met with our would-be wedding photographer. Three days before he broke up with me, we asked some of his family members to play music at our ceremony. On a Sunday, we opened our reply cards and sipped on champagne while talking about who was going to get the most drunk at our wedding.

That Wednesday, he walked into our apartment and told me we weren’t getting married.

I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who would have said of us, “Yeah, I could have seen that coming.” We were happy. At least, I was happy, and we looked happy on the outside. That’s all I can know.

You’re probably thinking that I’m delusional. I’m not. (I know, I know; that’s exactly what a delusional person would say. But really.) Of course we had issues. Every couple has issues. We argued about stupid things. We had our moments of tension. I also believed we had a beautiful, loving relationship that we were going to honor with marriage and bless with children.

He, obviously, had other plans.

It’s been six weeks since he called off our wedding. We were supposed to get married last Saturday. I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what happened. But I’ve come to realize that I will never know why a person I loved — and who loved me back — doesn’t want to marry me. All I know is that he doesn’t.

So what’s a girl to do?

Well, you’ve still gotta throw a party.

The day after my ex dropped the bomb that I was a bride-not-to-be, I realized that not only was my heart broken, but I was broke. My family had paid for what was supposed to be a beautiful, fun, 250-person wedding. We were out tens of thousands of nonrefundable dollars. (His family had also paid for a small portion of the wedding — they were out some cash, too.)

I spent the next few days trying to figure out how we were going to manage to not throw a bunch of money down a super-sad drain. (I also spent a fair amount of time crying and drawing in therapeutic coloring books, but that’s neither here nor there.) The venue we’d booked made it clear that just because we were planning to have a wedding that night didn’t mean we were contracted to have a wedding. We could do whatever we wanted with the venue. We’d paid; it was ours for the night. It was also too late to cancel the band; they were ours, too.

I’ve heard of cancelled weddings being turned into birthday parties, anniversary parties, “Yay, I’m Single Now” parties, but I didn’t want any of that. I didn’t have anything to celebrate. Still, I wanted someone to have a good night.

I started to think about who would appreciate a good party. My family and friends and I weren’t exactly in the mood to go wild, but I knew there were all sorts of people in the city who would love a night out.

My parents and I decided to donate the event to an organization in Seattle called Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter in Seattle that focuses on helping women and their children find permanent housing, employment, and hope for the future. (Mary’s Place is rad; if you live in the Seattle area and you’re looking for volunteer or donation opportunities, check out their website.)

Of course, I know that one night of dinner and dancing isn’t going to make a huge difference in these women’s lives. But hey, at least they got to get their hair done, eat some good food, and put on their dancing shoes. The event was my family’s small attempt to turn what’s been an awful situation for us into something positive for other people.

And I’ve gotta say, throwing the party has pushed me into a better state of mind. I don’t know how, exactly, but turning the would-be wedding into an event for women in transition has made me feel a little less desolate. It’s helped distract me from the fact that I’m a jilted bride, that a broken engagement will always be part of my life story. It’s taken me out of my head, which has not been a fun place to be. And as corny as it sounds, it’s made me feel like part of a sisterhood.

My mom attended the event. And between the two of us, she definitely should have been the one to go; she worked incredibly hard to plan the never-gonna-happen wedding, and she worked even harder to transition it into an entirely different event with just over a month left to go. She told me it was just as amazing as we wanted it to be. As soon as the band started playing, the kids rushed out onto the dance floor. My mom said the families had a blast.

And as for me? I didn’t go. If I were a badass, I’d have gone to the event that was supposed to be my wedding and danced my face off with a bunch of awesome women.

But I’m kind of a wimp, so I did the only thing I could think to do on that sad Saturday night: Xanax and chill.

Dana Olsen’s post appeared on xoJane on January 19, 2016. Dana’s generous gift to the families of Mary’s Place was covered locally by KING 5, KIRO 7, KOMO 4, and the Seattle Times.

I don’t live anywhere, we live outside.

Lauri posted this at the www.crowdrise.com/nochildoutside site, shared here with permission.

Hey folks – the below is about an experience I had the last time I chaperoned a field trip at Oscar’s school. Homelessness is not theoretical or distant in my community; it is present, immediate, and heartbreakingly human. If you have the time/bandwidth/resources, please read, share if you like, and donate if you are able to do so – thank you!

The bus ride home from the field trip is long; the kids laugh and chat and hang out of their seats and point at the lights-flashing police car. As we come back into the city:

“Hey, I’m right down that street!” “See that brick wall, behind the corner store? That’s where I live!”

The boy in front of me turns to speak to just me:

“I don’t live anywhere. We live outside.”

And I want to ask him if he’s joking, trying to pull one over on the gullible adult as kids so love to do – then I notice that his pants are far too short and the corduroy is almost worn through.

Damn.

I am thirty-nine years old.

I know thousands of words.

But I am lost at what to tell this child –

<oh God I’m so sorry>
<it’s going to be okay>
<is it?>
<I love you>
<This should not be happening to you>

All I can do is focus on being present. On not looking away. On holding my own discomfort to one side. On fully being with him, here, witnessing.

It feels like far too little.

It feels too close to nothing at all.

I smile at him, hope my eyes are shouting

<I love you>
<it’s going to be okay>

He smiles back.

“My mom tells me to have faith in God – help is on the way.”

And before he can see the worry in my eyes – I have no such faith – he turns back in his seat, to his friend pointing at the store we’re passing.

I wrap my arm around my own son, happy next to me on that long ride home. I squeeze him close and he has no idea why.

The distance between them is . . . paper thin, is tissue, is nothing at all.

I feel so lucky that it hurts, an ache in my chest and eyes as we pass our street, just blocks from home – our cozy, warm, safe home, full of food and toys and books. A pet fish and a balcony garden – such riches it is almost unbearable.

The distance between us is . . . sheer luck.

I look at the seat in front of me.

Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long – right?

Please?

His mom, I think, is stronger than he knows

now she’s got me praying too.

A new wig for Jolene

Jolene was born with a rare genetic disorder called anhidrotic ectodermal dysphagia that results in baldness, nail deformation, and teeth erosion. Jolene’s mother, brother, and daughter all have the disorder and it has affected each of their lives. Jolene started losing her hair when she was in third grade. By the time she was 11, she was almost completely bald. By age 13, she had the limited number of teeth she had left pulled and was fitted for dentures.

Jolene’s got her first office job at age 25 in an accounts payable department. She was qualified and well educated, but she never felt like she fit in. It was obvious that her co-workers didn’t feel comfortable with her appearance. Even though Jolene would often wear a wig to work, if the wig was wet from rain or washing, she sometime had to wear a headscarf. She noticed how people looked at her differently, and more and more employers would tell her that the head scarf was not work appropriate and insist that wear a wig. She was self-conscious and kept to herself. She didn’t have many work friends and felt isolated.

There were bright spots. There was one job, where she stayed for five years, where she was surrounded by a supportive and caring group of co-workers. She finally felt accepted, not judged, and confident in her work and life. It made such a difference!

Unfortunately, over the years, Jolene has come to realize how uncomfortable people are with her baldness. Her current wig is wearing out, losing hair, and looking tattered. She can’t afford to buy a new one. Jolene has found a new job and wants to make a good impression and fit in. She wonders if any of our generous and caring friends have a wig that they would donate to help her step confidently into this new page of her life?

UPDATE: January 29, 2016

Thanks to a generous donor (and several other generous offers!), Jolene has her wig and loves it!

IMG_0814 IMG_0815

The Generous Gift of Bob’s Blocks

Bob Mitchell, a resident at Bayview Retirement Community, makes wood block sets for our kids in his workshop in the basement at Bayview. The kids love them, especially because they come in personalized bags, and they recently got a chance to meet Bob when he made a trip to the Day Center. Thank you to Heather Graf and King 5 News for telling this wonderful story! Bob’s Blocks

“What you take with you when you leave that night and your mom tells you you’re not going to return to your home is really just your basic necessities,” said Mary’s Place Director, Marty Hartman. “Every kid wants that, they want something to have of their own, a favorite toy, something they can carry around. And Bob makes that possible.”

Note from a single father

Dear Mary’s Place,

I saw the story about the north Seattle shelter on KING 5 last night. I am so so glad to see you are helping single fathers. There was a time only a few years ago, I had only $150 to feed my four young boys. I went from owning a home in an expensive neighborhood, to near homeless. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. When I looked for help, it just wasn’t there. Depressed, scared, lonely, I just prayed and prayed and cried for a few years.

A big obstacle for me was the shame I felt of being a man, and needing to ask for help. There seems to be very little emotional support and/or understanding for single fathers. My kids have a mother that only sees them three times a year, for six hours, by choice – and people still think there must be something wrong with me; that no mother could just leave her kids. But that is just not true.

Things are better for me now, but our society must give more attention to single fathers. We don’t grow up watching mothers with the idea that we may be mothers some day. We feel ashamed to ask for help. Single fathers are much more common than people know. It’s hard to meet a life partner in this circumstance, and people are less inclined to open their doors up to men in need. It’s a very lonely and scary place sometimes. Anyway, thank you for helping these men out.

A single father

Connecting Passions

When Pamela Hayden introduced EMC Vice President for Global Services Gordon Winters to Mary’s Place late last year, he was hooked. Here’s a video he created about Mary’s Place to share with his friends, employees, and anyone who will watch!

The first weekend of October, Gordon will be hiking approximately six miles and 6,700 feet up Mount Adams, to support Mary’s Place. The reason for doing this, he calls Connecting Passions. Gordon is passionate about helping others, his work at EMC where he has been leading success and working with and for amazing people for 16 years, and hiking! He loves hitting the trails (rain or shine) when he has the free time.

EMC is a company that has chosen to “Make it Real” when it comes to supporting their local communities, by encouraging each employee to take three days off in the pursuit of helping others.

Gordon will use three days connecting his passions – raising funds for Mary’s Place, while getting outdoors for a hike. He wonders… How are you connecting your passions?

If you would like to support Gordon’s hike, and help raise money for Mary’s Place, click here and select Gordon’s Connecting Passions!

Announcing our new North Seattle Shelter

Earlier this year, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray formed a task force to identify solutions to housing homeless men, women and children who were currently sleeping outside. One of the recommendations of the group was that the City review its vacant properties for possible shelter locations.

The former bank building at 130th and Stone Way in North Seattle is slated to become the home of the Seattle Police Department’s new north precinct in early 2017. Until then, the City is making the building available to Mary’s Place for an emergency family night shelter. Thanks to the generosity of Perkins + Will architects and BNBuilders, modifications are already underway to turn the empty building into a home and we anticipate being moved in by June 7th.

We have so many friends and supporters to thank for this new space, including:

  • Seattle Mayor Ed Murray; Director of the City’s Department of Human Services, Catherine Lester; Steve Lee in the City’s Office of Policy and Innovation; and the members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness
  • Our hardworking and visionary Board of Directors that never stops working to bring families inside
  • Our relocation task force, led by Kris Ritchey Curtis of Kinzer Realty, has been hard at work to make this new space a reality. BIG thank you to task force members Jan Drago, Jessica Clawson, Tom Kinsman, Cameron Hall, and Rich Moore
  • And we could not have made this happen without help from the great people at the City of Seattle in the Dept. of Planning and Development, Human Services, Finance and Administrative Services, and the Fire Department

And thanks to YOU, for sharing your Real Help and Real Hope!