When temperatures drop and the rain starts going sideways in Seattle this time of year, the women bring their children in from the cold — where they've been hiding behind a dumpster, sleeping in a booth at the 24-hour diner, or taking refuge in a porta-potty just because it has a locking door.
But there aren't enough beds for the roughly 550 families — mostly single women and children — in King County who sleep outside in all kinds of weather. They come to shelters with drenched socks but might only be able to send their clothes through a dryer before returning to the streets.
"They're riding the bus all night with a blanket, sleeping in the airport until they're asked to leave, sleeping in the emergency room until they get kicked out," said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary's Place in Seattle. "That's where they're crawling out from to come here, but we don't have enough beds.
"It's just heartwrenching."
On Nov. 11, Mary's Place joined with the Seahawks Women's Association and other local sponsors to launch its second annual No Child Sleeps Outside campaign, with the goal of raising $500,000 to open an emergency winter night shelter. Donating is as easy as a few clicks on your phone or laptop, and donations of all sizes are welcome.
Members of the Seahawks Women's Association, which includes Seahawks employees and spouses of players and coaches, presented a check and hosted a kickoff luncheon at Mary's Place, where their own children helped serve pasta, salad, bread and dessert to about 250 homeless people.
"We did it on Veterans Day, so some of our own kids were able to participate," said Kelli Schneider, wife of Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider. "It really puts a face to homelessness; you see that they're normal women and normal kids who are just going through a difficult time.
"This is an avenue for us to reach out and give them a break in their crazy day, and have some conversation and lunch — things we just take for granted."
Seahawks mascot Blitz made an appearance at the event, doling out high-fives and posing for photos with the families. Children of SWA members gifted Seahawks bracelets and lime-green ponchos to their new friends, many of whom left with the luncheon's decorative blue and green balloons tied to their wrists and backpacks.
"These families don't even have a television. They can't watch a game, and yet here is a real, live relationship with the Seahawks, with the Seahawks Women's Association coming here and saying, 'We see you. We are sitting beside you.' That's the unique part of this," Hartman said. "And this is not just for one event. Many of these Seahawks women come in throughout the year. They are part of the family."
Russell Okung's mom showed up over the summer. The Schneider family drops off hundreds of snacks to stuff in backpacks every few weeks. Lindsey and Steven Hauschka donate time, and he has signed jerseys.
"Given that we are an organization of women, I think we have such compassion for women who are going through a hard time," said Schneider, who sits on the SWA's leadership committee.
"And then when you throw in the idea of their children sleeping outside, it's very heartbreaking. As women who represent the Seahawks, we had to do our part in reaching out to help them."
The No Child Sleeps Outside crowdfunding campaign runs through December 30. Meeting the $500,000 goal will also fund the operations of a Family Solutions Center, where local service providers will partner with Mary's Place to provide services and resources to homeless families.
For the launch of the No Child Sleeps Outside Campaign on Wednesday, the Seahawks Women's Association served lunch at Mary's Place, a day and night shelter that provides nourishment, resources, healing and hope to homeless women, children, and families.