Amazon to Build Homeless Shelter in Seattle

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After creating its own greenhouses, drones, and an airline, Amazon is embarking on its next eyebrow-raising project: a homeless shelter.

The shelter will be a permanent part of the retail giant's expanding corporate campus in downtown Seattle, the New York Times reports. It will occupy 47,000 square feet—roughly half the total area—of a new office building Amazon plans to build, and is capable of housing up to 220 people.

The idea for the shelter was born partly out of coincidence in addition to the pure goodness of Amazon's heart, however: the company is snapping up real estate in downtown Seattle as fast as it can, and one of the properties it bought happened to contain an old hotel, which was turned into a temporary homeless shelter last year.


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The hotel will be demolished, and rather than kick out the nonprofit that runs the shelter housed there, Amazon will spend tens of millions to construct a permanent shelter in the building that will eventually replace it, according to the Times. The nonprofit, Mary's Place, will occupy the space without having to pay rent or utilities.

Tech companies are often criticized for taking over vast swaths of real estate and jacking up housing prices, but the homeless shelter is the latest example that Amazon is trying to be a good neighbor. It has also presented building plans to the city of Seattle without asking for customary tax breaks or other similair concessions.

Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, other tech-backed initiatives to address the housing crunch are afoot. Last fall, Facebook announced it would spend $20 million to construct affordable housing units and assist tenants facing eviction. Activists have previously criticized Facebook for expanding its office footprint without a clear plan to address income inequality and affordable housing.

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