January is Poverty in America Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize and call attention to the growth of poverty in our region. This year’s observance is all the more vital, given the ongoing pandemic and subsequent economic upheaval it has brought to our community over the past two years.
Though our staff and partners of the Pike Place Market Foundation have been working around the clock to meet the ongoing and emerging needs of our community members, 2022 brings a new set of challenges. The fallout of Covid-19 continues to expose deep gaps in our social, health, economic, education, and community support systems, all of which contribute to the cycle of poverty that many of our neighbors experience.
The current poverty rate in Seattle is 12.5%, yet the poverty rate in the neighborhoods around Pike Place Market jumps to 26%. With one out of four of our neighbors living in poverty and economic uncertainty still largely looming, the Market Foundation program staff continues to work with our longtime service partners to identify barriers and enhance neighborhood stability in the Market.
A Rich History of Services
Since its beginnings, the Pike Place Market Foundation has played an essential role in combating poverty in the downtown Seattle area. Our Legacy Partners have spent decades intentionally building a strong network of social services in the Market to support the senior residents, families, and neighbors who call this place home. Since the early 1980s, the Market Foundation has dedicated consistent, unrestricted funding to allow these Market partners to sustain operations year after year and expand their essential services.
Housing is also critical to helping residents find stability: the safety and comfort of a home make it much more possible to achieve other markers of success – through education, employment, and wealth-building. Over 400 residents live in the Market’s affordable housing units perched above and around the Market’s storefronts. Since the 1980s, the Market Foundation has supported the construction and rehabilitation of all of the Market’s apartments, as well as helping pass a $72 million levy in 2008 for the upkeep of Market buildings.
When Pike Place Market was saved from the wrecking ball in 1971, the Friends of the Market helped solidify a robust urban model addressing poverty and inequity in our downtown core. The official Charter of the Pike Place Market established a solid commitment to social services in the historic district’s governance, ensuring community wellness as a core tenant of the Market’s mission. The charter also commits “to preserve and expand the residential community, especially for low-income people.” By working together toward a common goal of a healthy downtown neighborhood, the Market community flourished.
The Market’s Modern-Day Role
Fast-forward to Pike Place Market today. With the MarketFront expansion in 2017, the Pike Place Market Foundation grew its community programs and formally adopted the Kaiser Family Foundation model for public health in the Market. This model for the social determinants of health recognizes that community health and well-being are linked not only to the care individuals receive from a doctor, but also to economic stability, education, access to nutritious food, a safe neighborhood, and community support.
Within this model, the Market Foundation works with service partners to promote these social determinants like access to safe housing and affordable food, and reduce the barriers faced by community members. When these barriers are reduced or eliminated, data shows that our neighbors find stability and have an opportunity to attain their full health potential.
Recent studies show that community-based partnerships like the network of services at Pike Place Market are effective: they promote meaningful systems-level outcomes, build valuable relationships, and ultimately help community members cross barriers to escape poverty.
Together, we are building a model for a strong, and diverse community where our neighbors find stability in housing, healthcare and support services as well as opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.
The Road Ahead
The Market Foundation’s ability to focus on the overall health of the Market community while also being nimble in responding to emergent needs has helped this community flourish, despite the pandemic. We’ll continue on the road to recovery and, that means a road where everyone within the Market community has the opportunity to thrive and live their best life possible.
We have a lot in store for next year and beyond, as we continue to build a stronger and more stable community. Thank you to our partners, community members, staff, board members, volunteers, individual donors, corporations, and foundations who come together to help make Pike Place Market a model for community health in our region and beyond.