During December, Starbucks is “lighting up” 200 King County stores asking for donations to the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign benefiting Mary’s Place. The company will match those donations up to $1 million.

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Not long after delivering a sobering report on homelessness for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray earlier this year, consultant Barbara Poppe was invited to speak at Starbucks headquarters.

The room was packed with about 500 employees, or “partners,” who showed up with just a day’s notice. Employee surveys had shown that homelessness was a huge concern for them.

Poppe went through the numbers that many had already sensed, or seen for themselves: There are 4,000 homeless people in Seattle, and some 500 families — parents and children — living in cars on the streets of the suburbs, or finding shelter everywhere from port-a-potties to Sea-Tac Airport.

Then Poppe looked around the room and asked: “What’s wrong with you people? How can you permit this to happen?”

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In response, Starbucks is joining with the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign benefiting Mary’s Place, which operates two day centers and six crisis-response family shelters in Seattle.

The coffee company joins Seattle corporations like Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser and Microsoft, which has pledged $250,000 to Mary’s Place.

The campaign was started three years ago by the Dick’s Drive-In chain. In its first two years, the campaign raised $750,000 through 40 corporate and 1,500 individual donors — including Dick’s customers who drop change into the jars on the counters.

During the month of December, Starbucks is “lighting up” 200 King County stores asking for donations, said John Kelly, senior vice president for global responsibility, community and public policy. The company will match those donations up to $1 million.

The Starbucks Foundation has pledged another $1 million, as has the Schultz Family Foundation, for a total $3 million from the coffee giant.

The money primarily will be used to expand shelter capacity but also to help with client expenses such as rental assistance, car repairs and license renewals for those working in the trades — the small, yet expensive setbacks that get in the way of gaining stability and safety.

“Regardless of the choices parents make, children are out there by no fault of their own,” said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place.

The shelter, which serves about 120 families per night, has seen an increase in newborns (44 in the past 10 months) and special-needs children, as well as parents with disabled adult children, Hartman said. Many families spend all they have on health care, and then can’t afford housing once their children are well.

“There are kids in cars on chemo and dialysis,” Hartman said. “We can end this. There are enough buildings and enough vacant space.”

Said Kelly: “We want to be part of the solution.”