SEATTLE -- For homeless families in Seattle, there aren't many options. Staying at a library or a drop-in center works for the daytime, but what happens when the doors close at night?
That was the frustration for the staff at Mary's Place, a drop in center where homeless women and children could eat, shower, wash clothes, see a nurse and phone for transitional housing or motel rooms for the night. But once night fell, the center had to close and families who didn't find a place for the night shuffled off into the darkness to who knows where.
"This is pretty remarkable," beams Marty Hartman, director of Mary's Place as she scans the freshly painted walls and neat cots set up at the city's first emergency shelter for families in decades. Forty-eight people can spend the night if they cannot find a motel room or apartment. "We've wanted to do this for a long time and homeless families have asked for it. Just to come inside and stay together as a family."
To celebrate opening night, Jim Spady, VP of Dick's Drive In brings in sacks of burgers, fries and boxes of milkshakes. The restaurant collects customer change throughout the year for various charities like Mary's Place. "We've given tens of thousands of dollars over the years, but ya gotta have burgers!" he says.
The first family to bed down includes Glor Demissie, her brother Josef and their mother. They came to Seattle from Ethiopia almost 3 weeks ago. Mary's Place staff discovered them living at a public library.
"We are homeless. We don't have anywhere to go. We don't even have anywhere to sleep," said Glor. Her brother, Josef, added, "When people know you're homeless, they don't talk to you. And you don't get a job."
The Emergency Shelter is a joint effort of Mary's Place and the Union Gospel Mission's Hope Place. They will also provide Glor and her brother with school supplies, clothing and transportation to school.
"We don't want to see anymore kids doing homework by flashlight in a tent somewhere," said Hope Place's Stacy Cleveland. "We just want to help them get into transitional housing, permanent housing and have a place for TONIGHT."
Glor offers a smile. "I'm very excited. I'm very glad we found this place to help us."