Even after his divorce, Jeff Bezos is still worth somewhere around $111 billion — and no, he hasn’t yet decided to put that wealth toward ending world hunger. But Amazon is working on a different kind of philanthropy project: opening a homeless shelter. The proposed shelter, which is being co-created by nonprofit Mary’s Place, will live in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and is set to open sometime in the first quarter of 2020.
A small dent in an enormous problem — The new shelter will have the capacity to serve approximately 275 people each night. This is only about two percent of the estimated 12,500 homeless people in King County, where Seattle is located.
While this is certainly a minor fix overall, the size of the new space will actually make it the largest family shelter in Washington state. The shelter is also expected to make upwards of 600,000 meals per year.
Amazon’s rise did make Seattle inaccessible — After Amazon built its campus in Seattle in 2010, the city’s rent prices skyrocketed. The city’s median rent increased by 42 percent between 2007 and 2017 — where the average for the U.S. overall was an 18 percent increase. Meanwhile, the rate of homelessness has increased by 9 percent each year since 2014.
The shelter’s owner doesn’t blame Amazon, though — Marty Hartman, the founder of Mary’s Place, is nothing but thankful for Amazon’s generosity. Many have linked Seattle’s homelessness crisis with Amazon’s rise to power, but Hartman disagrees.
“It’s not one entity that’s going to solve this,” she said. “It’s not on corporations. It’s not on congregations. It’s not on government. It’s not on foundations. It’s all of us working together.”
Okay, but why isn’t Amazon doing more? — The new shelter will provide much-needed space for Seattle’s homeless population — but it isn’t enough. Bezos is often criticized for being stingy with his giving, and this is no exception. The new space will be able to help 275 people each night, but Bezos and Amazon have much, much more to give than that.