No Child Sleeps Outside: Shelter as Part of a Comprehensive Strategy for Eliminating Homelessness

ACCORDING TO FAMILY HOUSING CONNECTIONS, THERE WERE OVER 5,100 HOMELESS FAMILIES IN KING COUNTY LAST YEAR. AT MARYS PLACE, THE NUMBER OF BED NIGHTS WE PROVIDED GREW FROM 7,000 IN 2012, TO OVER 20,000 IN 2013. Earlier this year the City of Seattle awarded Mary’s Place $200,000 to open Bianca’s Place, our crisis response family shelter in South Lake Union. Bianca’s Place, our fourth family night shelter, has nearly doubled our capacity, yet we still turn families away at night.

The reality is that there are thousands more people on lists for housing in our area than there are available units. Where are families and children supposed to go while they wait weeks, even months for housing? It’s unacceptable that there are still families sleeping outside at night, and the cold of winter is just around the corner. Crisis Response Shelter is a critical and effective part of the rehousing system and needs to be expanded.

The families we bring into Mary’s Place emergency shelters are finding resources, connecting to schools, developing skills, and building support networks to move into jobs and homes successfully. Working together with other providers and organizations that are committed to solving homelessness, Mary’s Place will be a strong voice for the role of crisis response shelter.

Our community shelter model works. It’s what families want, and it’s cost effective. Mary’s Place can feed and house an individual in one of our shelters for just $11 a night. Our goal is to open more crisis response night shelters for families in other areas of King County to meet the growing need.

Our Advocacy and Partnerships Committee and staff have been busy over the last few months talking with elected officials and the City of Seattle about continued funding for Bianca’s Place and our vision that Every Family Sleep Inside at Night.

This month the City begins its 2015/2016 budget process. The Mayor will deliver his budget to the City Council and then councilmembers will hold meetings and public hearings to incorporate their own funding priorities.

If you would like to help, contact the Seattle City Council by emailing and the King County Council at Let your elected leaders know that no child, no family should sleep outside at night. Ask them to continue to support, and to expand, the Mary’s Place crisis response family shelter model.

You can also attend public hearings on the proposed budget and make your voice heard. Information about City of Seattle October budget hearings is at King County dates have not yet been published, but find that info here:

Throughout the budget process we will send email notices about meetings and opportunities to be heard. If you are not on our email list and would like to be added, please email abbey@marysplaceseattle. We hope you’ll join our families, staff, and supporters at Council meetings this Fall!

From our Autumn Newsletter

Announcing Taylor’s Fund

Taylor’s Fund was established in 2014 in memory of our sister, Taylor, who fought terminal cancer with grace and dignity, and provides end of life care for our women. Taylor was an active and beloved member of Mary’s Place for over a decade. She came and began doing what she does best – cooking! Taylor never worked from a recipe, but created wonderful meals from her heart. She served hundreds of thousands of meals at Mary’s Place, and trained other women to cook alongside her. She never let her illness keep her from giving back to her family at Mary’s Place and you could find her in the Mary’s Place kitchen nearly every day cooking up some special treats for the women and children.

Your contribution to Taylor’s Fund pays for end of life care and, remembering how much Taylor loved it when we brought her peaches in final days, Taylor’s Fund provides comfort food and other items to our terminally ill women. Many of our state’s homeless who have no next of kin are buried unceremoniously with other unclaimed souls. Taylor’s Fund ensures that our women receive a loving and respectful burial.

Taylor —-
Take a pinch of laughter
Add a dash of leadership
Two handfuls of generosity
And heaping pile of love
Don’t forget the double pinch of independence!
Stir daily with creativity
Serve with loyalty and compassion

Mary’s Place Honored with ‘Outstanding Organization’ Award

SEATTLE – May 14, 2014 – The Seattle Human Services Coalition is honoring Mary’s Place with the Outstanding Organization Award as part of its 2014 Human Services Awards. “The Awards Committee was incredibly impressed with the high caliber of all the organizations doing inspirational work in our community,” said Julia Ismael, the SHSC chair for the Human Services Awards Committee, “Mary’s Place stood out as exceptional among all the heartfelt nominations.”

Mary’s Place is one of the few places that offer crisis response night shelter and day center services for homeless families with children. In addition to addressing basic needs such as food, safety and medical care, Mary’s Place provides a welcoming and accepting environment where homeless women and their children can build community and find resources to help them restore their lives. “There are so many people who give their time and talent to make Mary’s Place a warm, safe place for our families” said Marty Hartman, Executive Director, Mary’s Place, “we are humbled by this honor and mindful that there is still much work to be done to help bring homeless women and their children inside to safety.”

During the past 15 years, Mary’s Place has served thousands of women and children in its three family night shelters and expanded-services day shelter. Next month Mary’s Place will open its fourth family night shelter and welcome single men with children along with moms and dads with children. Despite an improving economy for some, the need remains great. In King County there are more than 5,100 homeless families, with an estimated 450 spending nights in places that are not safe. Learn more about our new shelter and ways to help.

Mary’s Place and other individuals and organizations honored by the Seattle Human Services Coalition will celebrate their awards on Thursday, June 5th, from 5:30 – 7:00pm in the Bertha Knight Landes room at Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave, Seattle Washington. All are welcome to join, RSVP is requested at Interpretation is available if requested by May 19th.

A Place To Call Home!

With over 30,000 homeless students in our state, over 5,100 families registered in King County as homeless, and at least 450 families sleeping in places that are not safe, we are finally able to say, “Come on in, we’ve been waiting for you!”

We are excited to announce that Mary’s Place was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the City of Seattle to open an emergency family shelter. We want to thank Mayor Ed Murray, the City’s Human Services Department, and the Seattle City Council for their commitment to providing safe shelter for families and children; and for their confidence in our cost-effective model for saving lives, building community, and restoring hope on the journey out of homelessness. A special thanks as well to our agency partners at Family Housing Connections, Catholic Community Services, Low Income Housing Institute and Seattle King County Coalition for Homelessness for their support that made this funding possible.

Our newest night shelter building is located in the Cascade neighborhood of Seattle just east of South Lake Union and will accommodate single women with children, single men with children, and moms and dads with children on two floors. Thank you to the architect, design, and planning angels at Perkins+Will for their help turning this office building into a temporary home for up to 30 families!

Families will arrive at 5:00 p.m. and have time for homework, games and play before sharing dinner together at 6:30 p.m. Then, showers, crafts and story time before bedtime and lights out at 9:00 p.m. During the week, families will leave the shelter at 8:00 a.m. to catch their taxi’s to school, go off to work/class or transition to the Mary’s Place Day Center for help with housing and employment resources. The shelter will be open all day on Saturdays and Sundays so children can get extra rest, run around in their jammies before exploring the park across the street, make their own lunch, and discover free activities in the city with their family and new friends. It truely will be, A Place to Call Home.

Our new building is waiting for you, too! We are launching a fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 to add showers, laundry and a kitchen as well as staff for evenings and weekends. You’ll be getting information about that campaign in the mail soon and I hope you can help. In the meantime, you can contribute to the effort by donating online or sending a check. More information about how to give is here. Besides funding, we have other needs as well:

  • Can you share your talents with us? We are looking for: contractors, electricians, and plumbers!
  • Can you donate materials? We need lumber, drywall, shower stalls, sink & faucet, 2 refrigerators, 2 freezers, microwaves, tables, chairs and a wall-mounted TV to start!
  • Can you come be with us? We need meals brought in every night, volunteers to play with our children, and to talk to our parents. Share your resources with us!
  • See our full wish list here

It will take all of us to fill our new building with warmth, food, hope, healing and love to make it… A Place To Call Home!

Renewing Hopes, Wishes & Dreams for 15 Years

The theme of Mary’s Place 2014 annual luncheon on May 20th celebrates our 15 year anniversary of empowering homeless women and children to reclaim their lives.

Please join us at this inspirational event with Luncheon Chair, Kelli Schneider, Seahawks Women’s Association and emcee Lori Matsukawa, King 5 News Anchor. We have a great, inspirational program planned, including a special performance by the Lullaby Project of the Seattle Symphony.

Register today and consider bringing 9 friends and being a table captain! Email for more information.

Thank You, Pearl Jam!

The Vitalogy Foundation supports the efforts of non-profit organizations doing commendable work in the fields of community health, the environment, arts and education and social change. $2 from each ticket sold from the majority of Pearl Jam concerts is placed into the Vitalogy Foundation. As board members of the foundation, the members of Pearl Jam allocate Vitalogy Foundation funds to a number of non-profit organizations that they personally select.

We were surprised and thrilled to learn that Mary’s Place was selected by band member Stone Gossard to receive a donation from the Foundation of $10,000! As a thank you to Stone and the band, the kids at Mary’s Place recorded this version of Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe.

Growing Success… Together

“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“When I grow up, I want to be homeless!” said no little girl, ever.

The combination of devastating life events, circumstances beyond one’s control, and institutionalized systems of inequality could force any of us out on the street at any stage in life. But these brave women prove that landing on the street doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever – and the seeds of compassion grow a garden of success.

Shirley was 45 years old when she lost her job. She was already struggling when her health deteriorated. Soon, she discovered that she needed brain surgery, which affected short- and long- term memory. People treated her “like I was garbage they wanted to throw away.”

It took several weeks for her to gather the courage to walk in to Mary’s Place. By this point, she had already retreated so far inside herself that it was hard to even speak.

Shirley tells us the people at Mary’s Place were patient, kind, and knew exactly what she needed to get back on her feet. Step by step, she was able to find housing. Soon thereafter, Shirley was diagnosed with diabetes. Thanks to a nurse at Mary’s Place, she was able to learn how to manage her condition and get on with living. “Mary’s Place respects and honors me, and teaches every woman you can get bitter, or you can get better.” Shirley is doing well now, living on her own, but says, “Mary’s Place will always be my home, even though I have my own home now.”

We salute you, Shirley!

Seeing Sophie’s miling face, you would never guess the adversity she’s overcome. Sophie was married to her best friend, and they had a great life together for 42 years. But when he was laid off, it wiped them out financially. They lost their apartment. A short time later, he died of an aneurysm. Sophie thought her life was ruined. After spending some time in a shelter, she was able to get a very inexpensive apartment. But she was still struggling – isolated, and just not making it financially or emotionally.

A friend told Sophie about Mary’s Place, where she found help, support, friendship, and “a family.” Recently, she had an aneurysm that required massive surgery. Her sisters at Mary’s Place held her up through the excruciating process of surgery and recovery. Sophie says, “I would be dead – I would have committed suicide by now if Mary’s Place had not come into my life.”

Now, Sophie volunteers and runs the front desk at Mary’s Place. She uses Bon Mary’s points she earns through her volunteer work to buy things she needs. “Mary’s Place gives me peace of mind. It balances me,” she says. “I just love this place. If you’re having a bad day – or like me, missing my husband, who was my whole world — you just need to talk to the right person and your day is better. You are out of your funk.”

Sophie, you’re truly an inspiration!

A combination of circumstances led to Alyssa living in a tent, pregnant, and taking care of a 1-year-old child. With the help of Mary’s Place, she was able to get into a hotel, then a 90-day shelter program. After that, she moved into a transitional housing program. Now, she and her children are moving into permanent housing – thanks to Mary’s Place helping with the application and walking her through the process. But wait, there’s more!

Last week, Abby started a good job that she landed with the help of Mary’s Place’s employment coordinator. Mary’s Place was also able to help her get the children into daycare. Now, Abby is doing great. She loves her new job, and comes back to Mary’s Place to volunteer. “I love Mary’s Place,” she says. “I cold never repay Mary’s Place for what they have done for me. If it wasn’t for Mary’s Place, I wouldn’t have my boys.”

Congratulations, Abby!

Thank you, ladies, for generously sharing your stories and your time. We’re looking forward to a fruitful season of growing and sharing successes together!

By Guest Blogger Jennifer Harriman

What does Tom Douglas have in Common with Homeless Women and Children?

Image: Chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas, along with his Pastry Chef Stacy Fortner, visit Mary’s Place for a community breakfast with council member Jean Godden.

Stories — that’s what I always want to hear. And hear them I did on a recent Wednesday morning at Mary’s Place.

Mary’s Place is a day shelter for women and children. In fact, it is the only day center in King County that accepts homeless women with children. It holds a monthly breakfast and invites community members to attend.

On the overcast April morning when I showed up, there were about 70 women and children assembled at the Belltown shelter, breakfasting on coffee, fruit, and pastries. The sweets — buttery croissants and savvy muffins — were treats from the Dahlia Bakery, donated by superchef Tom Douglas. When I arrived, I was taken on a tour of the welcoming shelter. The facility has two bathrooms where homeless women can shower and do their laundry. There’s a room where young children can play and there are staff members and volunteers who help women find scarce transitional housing.

One of the first stories that I heard was told by our volunteer tour guide. She said her church had just adopted a new Palm Sunday tradition. “We usually carry palm fronds and place them on the floor by the altar. This Sunday,” she said, “we covered the floor with coats. Then we collected the coats for Mary’s Place. They’re over there, hanging on a rack by the door. Anyone needing a coat can take one.” Mary’s Place is like that, a loving community where you feel instantly at home.

I toured the kitchen and, there, of course, was Tom Douglas himself, a giant teddy bear of a man, making sure that there were enough baked goods for the multitudes — nearly 100 women and visitors. Shortly afterward, around 8:30 a.m., Executive Director Marty Hartman welcomed us to the monthly breakfast and invited the women there to tell stories about how they’d come to Mary’s Place to help regain control over their lives and move forward. The stories were touching — a woman who was conquering drug abuse, a second woman who had escaped domestic abuse, and a third who was recovering from misfortune and illness. All three said that at Mary’s Place they felt safe and comfortable and discovered resources to find housing and financial aid.

When my turn came to tell something of my story, I talked about how I’d written about Mary’s Place when I was a reporter. But I was also able to introduce Douglas, who has been such a great supporter. It had been my privilege to write about Tom ever since his days as a chef at Café Sport at Pike Place Market.

One of the greatest stories from this period, one I’ve never shared before, concerned a fundraiser at Seattle Central Community College. Douglas was getting an award, one citing his work with the culinary program. During the dinner, he wandered off and ended up in the kitchen. When he returned, he said, “These kids are cooking with a terrible mismatched set of pans.” With that, he passed a dented pot and those of us in attendance filled it with enough bills to buy the apprentice cooks a new set of cookware. It was a magnificent, unforgettable gesture; one that, you could say, gives new meaning to the term “panhandler.”

Like Tom, many of us feel as if we should take up panhandling on behalf of those in need. At Mary’s Place, there are many needs. And, although there are no dented pots to fill, we could contribute some of the following: bras and underwear (new or gently used), socks (black especially), pajamas and slippers, feminine hygiene needs, shampoo and manicure sets, coffee gift cards, and cans of hot cocoa mix. Donations of cash, too, of course, are welcome. We can all help write new endings to the stories that they tell at Mary’s Place.