Looking out his window at the vibrant skyline of a city he’s helped shape, the last thing you’d expect to be on John Schoettler’s mind are homeless people. As Amazon’s vice president for global real estate and facilities, his job is to create environments for Amazon employees. Instead of an isolated corporate campus, the company made a conscious decision to locate in the heart of the city, and Schoettler takes the responsibility of being a good neighbor seriously.
“I want us to stitch ourselves into the fabric of the neighborhood,” he says. “This means looking for synergistic opportunities.”
That’s what he did after Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness in November 2015. “I did a big ‘What if?’” says Schoettler.
That led to the April 2016 transformation of one of the company’s vacant properties, a former Travelodge, into temporary housing for more than 200 homeless family members served by Mary’s Place, along with employment opportunities for many of them. And last spring, it led to Amazon’s donation of 47,000 square feet of space in its newest headquarters building to serve as the permanent home of a Mary’s Place shelter, opening in early 2020.
Under Schoettler’s leadership, Amazon also donated space and equipment for the nonprofit FareStart to open five new public eateries, helped establish a new paid apprenticeship program and launched a $1 million matching gift program, in recognition of the organization’s 25th anniversary this year.
Although Schoettler is more comfortable operating behind the scenes, his “it takes a village” leadership has inspired teams of Amazon, community and corporate volunteers to raise funds, refurbish shelters, donate materials, and share meals and celebrations with homeless families.
“I’m a believer in spreading the blanket,” he says.
Check out the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.