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Expanding Housing and Social Services on the new MarketFront

Posted December 11, 2014

Pike Place Market is more than a public market; it’s a vibrant neighborhood that is home to more than 350 residents, many of whom are low-income seniors. Walk down the cobblestone street of Pike Place and you’ll see windows and balconies of apartment units that are the homes to residents who live above the storefronts. This reflects one of the core purposes of Pike Place Market: that our community, especially low-income seniors, can live in a safe and affordable home. The Market is also home to a network of vital services such as a Senior Center, Medical Clinic, Food Bank, Preschool and food access program that reach more than 11,000 neighbors every year.

Yet, throughout Seattle, affordable housing remains the #1 barrier to self-sufficiency for people earning low wages or living on fixed incomes. Every year the homeless population in King County continues to rise, including at least 1,000 seniors. Education and workforce opportunities for living wage jobs are out-of-reach for so many in our community, especially low-income women and minority populations.

Meanwhile, the current human services in the Market are over-capacity and witness the ever-growing demand for much-needed support services every day. Our current capacity of housing and services is not enough.

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The MarketFront is the Pike Place Market Foundation’s opportunity to expand upon the heart of our mission to create a thriving, caring community for low-income people. The project adds 40 new units of low-income senior housing: 80% of the housing units will be available to adults who are 55 and older, the remaining 20% will be work/live units available to Market’s workers who earn 50% of the area median income.  We are also building a new Neighborhood Center to provide a welcome space for the community, while addressing the emergent and growing needs of our city.

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In 2014, The Market Foundation conducted a community-wide needs assessment to help identify the most pressing unmet needs Market community members face and viable opportunities for social service expansion. This assessment incorporates in-depth interviews with human service providers, focus groups with community members, and a survey that will allow us to quantitatively measure and prioritize existing needs. The results of this research are helping The Market Foundation develop a long-term strategic plan to help meet the needs of those who live, work, and learn in and around the Market through social service expansion with the Neighborhood Center, which will be open as part of the new MarketFront by 2017.

Our survey results tell us that Market community members demonstrate overwhelming need for the following services: dental, optometry, housing assistance, legal assistance, resident advocacy, mental health treatment, health education (disease prevention and management classes), homeless services (basic needs), expanded social work, and regular access to healthy food.

These statistical findings were only further validated when we spoke to Market community members personally:

“Another crying need is dental care for the poor. You know, one way you can tell a poor person is you just look at their teeth. And it really impacts their overall health. Some of my poor friends… They might be just as smart and just as nice as anyone else, but when they smile they have trouble getting hired because they look like they’re from that movie, Deliverance. So having nice teeth, you know, all of these things… It’s like nothing succeeds like success! The more you’ve got going for you, the more you’ve got going for you, right?”

With this new evidence, the Market Foundation will begin to explore feasible opportunities for social service program expansion in the Neighborhood Center and beyond, so that we can better address the critical needs of the downtown Seattle community.

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Support the expansion of housing and social services by writing your name into Pike Place Market history or make a donation to the MarketFront today: Act Now