by: Graham Johnson
SEATTLE – Since late December, an old Travelodge has been home to Rosita Lopez, Eugene Ford and their seven children.
Earlier, they had been living out of a car.
“The difference is being in a car and not having a support system and then coming to a place like this,” said Ford.
Amazon owns the Travelodge property at 8th Avenue and Bell Street, and will put up an office building on site.
In 2016, the company offered the old motel temporarily to Mary’s Place, a non-profit that shelters homeless women and families until they can get back on their feet.
“It’s the closest thing to home that any homeless person can have,” Lopez said.
On Wednesday, Amazon made an announcement releasing a video showing the company’s real estate vice president John Schoettler handing a box to Mary’s Place Director Marty Hartman.
Amazon will build a 65-room shelter to house 200 people right on the site of its new office building, where the old motel stands now.
“We just started thinking big and said what if, what if we could do something like this?,” Shoettler said.
He estimated it will cost the company tens of millions of dollars over the long term.
“Being inclusive, and having everybody be a part and all be neighbors together is important,” Shoettler said.
For Mary’s Place, the gift is transforming.
The organization, which held a fundraising lunch Wednesday, has previously relied on temporary shelters.
“It’s pretty miraculous for us to have a permanent place, a place to bring families inside and never have to worry about finding that next building or that next shelter,” said Hartman.
Amazon will help Mary’s Place temporarily move residents from the old Travelodge to an old Day’s Inn across the street when construction begins this fall.
The new building, for both Amazon and Mary’s Place, will open in 2020.
In addition, Mary’s Place fundraised Wednesday for a $1 million matching grant from Amazon, part of the Give Big campaign for local non-profits organized by Seattle Foundation.