Amazon May Have Found A Cause in Homelessness

Amazon is often accused of being stingy. But with recent $1M donations, and by including a homeless shelter on a new campus, it may have found a cause.

Recently when Amazon Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos briefly became the world’s richest person, WIRED compared his giving to others like him, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg and others.

“He lags far behind his tech billionaire brethren in terms of philanthropy,” according to the report.

In May, however, Amazon decided to provide the Mary’s Place transitional homeless shelter situated in a Seattle motel it owns, a permanent place in its new downtown office campus expected to open in 2020. According to a report in the New York Times, Amazon will include 47,000 square feet of space over three floors full of private rooms that can house about 220 people and their pets.

The facility will have its own entrance and elevators. Amazon will pay the utilities for Mary’s Place, which will occupy rent-free. It may be the first instance of business space that houses a shelter in the United States.
Amazon has been criticized for its limited philanthropy, especially in its hometown Seattle.
“Given its large physical footprint, Amazon is seen as an anomaly among major employers for its reluctance to get involved in local matters,” reported the Seattle Times back in 2012.

$1 Million Local Matches

But its stingy reputation may be changing as Amazon may have found a cause in local homelessness. The trend seems to be that Amazon will make $1 million matches to organizations in neighborhoods where it has a footprint.

Earlier this month, Friendship Place, a Washington, D.C. homeless advocacy organization said a new Amazon pledge is the largest private donation it has ever received.

Amazon will match all donations made to Friendship Place before Dec. 31, 2017, up to a total of $1 million, to fund critical emergency services to homeless families, according to MetroWeekly. Funds will not only help families find stable long-term housing and jobs but access medical and mental health care, food, transportation and even cover moving costs, like purchasing furniture.

Jean Michel Giraud, the president and chief executive officer of Friendship Place, said that the funding will also support members of the LGBTQ community, and in particular, homeless LGBTQ youth.

Amazon also struck a deal with FareStart, a non-profit restaurant and workforce training operation to which it had already donated 25,000 square feet of space and furnishings in Seattle, according to GeekWire.

Amazon will match all revenue from the five new restaurants, up to $1 million, for the first 25 days of operations. One of them, Community Table, is on an Amazon campus. The restaurants provide training opportunities for FareStart’s Foodservice Apprenticeship Program, a program which helps address hunger and homelessness with job training.

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