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Mary’s Place Helps Keep Homeless Families Intact

Aarionna Foster, a mother of three, credits Mary's Place with helping her build her resume.

Joshua Huston


Last fall, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that the city’s homeless situation had become so dire, he declared it a “civil emergency.” Last month, King County leaders pledged to spend millions of dollars on new affordable housing and shelters after a recent count showed a spike in homeless numbers, particularly in communities on the Eastside and in the south end. 


Now, new data from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction revealed that nearly 3,000 children are homeless in the Seattle School District, from preschool-age to 12th grade. 


It can be a challenge for any homeless individual to find shelter, but it’s nearly impossible for entire families to live together as they await permanent housing. Homeless families are often forced to split up until they can find a place to live. 


But Mary’s Place — a Seattle-based nonprofit providing services primarily to women and children — also has beds for entire families seeking shelter. The organization has space for 200 family members, space that can accommodate between 50 and 80 families per night. 


“Of course, our goal is to keep those families safe, alive and together,” says Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place. “But it’s also to give them resources to move forward together. We believe family homelessness is solvable. We can bring every family inside and move them forward. It just takes everyone doing their part.”  


Mary’s Place is working with the mayor’s office to expand their program, and even find a way to house families with pets. “Many homeless families are still sleeping in cars because, like everyone else, their dogs or cats become like family and they don’t want to give them up,” Hartman says.


When families come to Mary’s Place, staff members help children enter schools within 48 hours of arriving, and give them the necessary supplies. The organization collaborates with dozens of nonprofits to provide services, including ESL classes, job-skills training and résumé assistance to help adults find employment. 


Mary’s Place serves families whose challenges include job loss, divorce and severe health problems. Some families will move to Seattle with their ill children because of the city’s renowned pediatric health resources, only to find themselves without stable employment and income. 


Aarionna Foster, a pregnant mother of three, credits Mary’s Place with helping her secure an internship that will bolster her résumé when she begins her job hunt after an upcoming surgery. 


“Everyone is working diligently to get me placed. I’m hoping to get everything figured out sooner rather than later, but going back into the workforce will be easier now that I have this internship on my résumé,” she says. 


Mary’s Place also helps parents retain custody of their children. The city requires that parents have access to running water in order to maintain custody, so mothers and fathers living out of cars or in tents risk losing their kids. 


Want to help? Mary’s Place accepts donations of time, money and resources, including clothing, toys, laptop computers and strollers. Check their website for specific items and where to take them: marysplaceseattle.org/support-us


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