At the May 2019 CEOtoCEO breakfast, Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary's Place, joined us to share her unique insight into Seattle's homelessness crisis. So often, this crisis is thought of and spoken about in terms of individual or chronic homelessness. Drug addicts, tent camps, garbage everywhere.
Marty's experience is with the "other side" of the homelessness crisis: family homelessness. The Mary's Place strategy is unique in that they focus on occupying empty buildings. Warehouses, hotels, apartment units, they will convert into longer-term temporary shelters to house women, children, and families while helping them get back into permanent housing.
Put simply, solving homelessness is a community issue and will take the entire community of Seattle to solve. Mary's Place is laying a phenomenal foundation - they provided 180,000 overnight stays in 2018 alone - but Marty also detailed ways in which local business leaders can help work towards a solution.
The first is to see the homelessness crisis for what it is: a housing problem. Families are being evicted for as little as $3, and such a situation can have lifelong consequences for children who experience homelessness for even the shortest time periods. By creating resources to help prevent evictions that lead to family crises and homelessness, we can make an incredible upstream impact.
Second, we as business leaders can use our networks to identify empty buildings or landlords with empty units and connect them to Mary's Place. Empty space is the bread and butter of Mary's Place and goes a long way towards getting children a safe and warm place to sleep.
Finally, we can collaborate with Mary's Place by sponsoring an event, running donation drives, or volunteering at community-service days whether as an individual or a company.