Homelessness is a serious problem across the United States. Still, the only issues that get any attention are those happening in Washington, D.C. That's why Amazon's latest announcement should be seen as a breath of fresh air.
In Seattle, Washington, where homelessness has achieved a concerning level, tent cities have sprung up under the rainy city's interstates. In order to help alleviate the problem, Amazon announced it would lend space in its new building to Mary's Place, an organization that operates several family shelters.
But despite the charitable decision, some of the criticism the company has faced for not doing enough to help address the city's homelessness problem over the years still persists. Some have even gone as far as to say that the company's new move is nothing but a way to redeem itself — in public.
Regardless, Amazon's new six-story building will be donating 47,000 square feet of space to the family shelters, a decision that followed a similar move from 2016, when the company allowed Mary's Place to use a former Travelodge it owns to give 200 homeless women, children, and families a temporary place to live. Now that Amazon wants to tear down the building to have it rebuilt, the new donation has gained new meaning.
In a video that was distributed along with the press release announcing the donation, Mary's Place Executive Director Marty Hartman is given a special Amazon delivery with a note. Many people are pointing out that the video takes place in a “highly staged setting,” making it the perfect “viral” moment to go along with the announcement.
All in all, critics suggest, this is just a PR move to make everyone forget Amazon's lack of involvement with its hometown's problems from the get-go.
Still, no matter how much bad press this story gets, what's more important than Amazon's motives is that countless homeless families will be able to have a safe place to stay, albeit temporarily. Perhaps now that Amazon has decided to take such a bold move, putting its own employees in direct contact with the shelter it's going to house, more companies will follow suit.
Other large companies like Microsoft, Boeing, and Nordstrom — all Seattle-based enterprises — have donated heavily to organizations like United Way of King County, a non-profit organization that invests in shelter and housing programs around the county.
Amazon's lack of involvement prompted many to call out the retail giant for being a “minor player — at best — in local charitable giving.”
But as it redeems itself, it may be in a better situation to even dig deeper into the city's homelessness troubles.
Much like San Francisco, where the tech industry drove up the living costs around the city, Seattle has seen housing costs go up as more tech employees move in. However, economists aren't so sure that this move alone is to blame for the homelessness issue.
Instead, many believe that an overall boost in prosperity in the region has a lot to do with the rising cost of living.
As prosperous companies move in, perhaps Amazon can play the important role of leading the way so others get more personally involved in helping struggling locals.