Amy (02) and Brady King (02) are living out the words of 1 John 3:18 with their work. As founders of Pallet, a public benefit corporation, they are helping to address a significant need: unsheltered homelessness. At the same time, Pallet seeks to employ people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system, homelessness, or addiction, giving them a new opportunity to grow and thrive. Amy is also the founder and board president of Weld, a nonprofit that helps system-impacted people with employment, housing, and resources.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 3:18
Amy King Headshot

Amy describes herself as “wildly passionate about social justice and social enterprise,” and she attributes her passion’s beginning to her time at PLNU studying with Jim Johnson, Ed.D. As a psychology major, she learned to care deeply about marginalized people and worked with Johnson to help children on the autism spectrum. While at Point Loma, Amy had the opportunity to be published as an undergraduate researcher, made lifelong friends, and met Brady.

Brady was involved with mission trips growing up and at Point Loma before he developed a passion for helping his local community. Brady was also involved in leading worship and playing club volleyball. He earned his degree in managerial and organizational communications.

The path to where the Kings are now was difficult at times. Amy and Brady married in 2003. After briefly working in Los Angeles, the Kings moved to Seattle. Brady went into the construction business with Amy’s father and brother. Together they had several family-founded companies. Amy worked in mental health and healthcare administration at several hospitals, including Seattle Children’s and Harborview Medical.

The Kings family photo

“I learned about the business of medicine and social services and started to really understand more about sustainability and service provision,” she said.

Sadly, during the middle of the recession, the family lost their construction businesses. Brady and Amy moved to Portland with their oldest daughter, Harleigh, who was around 4 at the time. While they were there, their younger daughter, Piper, was born. Brady got a job working with a company that manufactured tools. Amy worked for a private clinic. Throughout all of this time, they were learning different skill sets related to housing, manufacturing, and healthcare.

“We were working in two different worlds, but now they are smashed together!” Amy said.

In 2014, Amy and Brady founded Square Peg, a new construction company, which they just recently wound down. Although it was intimidating to take that risk again, they felt like it was where God was calling them. Like many general contractors, Square Peg built permanent housing products. What made it unique was that they chose to hire people other companies might overlook. In fact, more than 80% of Square Peg’s employees had recently exited the criminal justice system, addiction recovery programs, or a time living in homelessness. Brady served as principal and Amy as managing partner.

Two years later, Pallet was born. Amy and Brady are co-founders of Pallet with Amy also serving as CEO and Brady as the research and development lead. A social enterprise, Pallet is a manufacturing company that designs and produces rapid deployment shelters that can go up in less than an hour. They are used to address unsheltered homelessness as well as in disaster response. In addition to their speed and ease of set-up, Pallet’s products are unique in that they are not congregate units. Individuals and families of up to four people are each able to sleep in their own separate, climate-controlled shelter. The shelters are put up in “villages” where hygiene facilities, food, water, and access to support services are readily available. The idea is for these to be temporary housing communities, providing safety and services in transition to more permanent housing for residents. Pallet has put up more than 4,000 units in over 120 shelter communities around the world.

“Pallet is a manufacturing company that designs and produces rapid deployment shelters that can go up in less than an hour.”

Brady King selfie

The idea for the shelters came from Brady, who began to think about possibilities after Hurricane Katrina. When they were ready to realize Brady’s vision, Amy’s father, a mechanical engineer, helped with the product design – in fact, he was Pallet’s head of engineering for five years.

More than 80% of Pallet’s workforce has been impacted by homelessness, substance abuse, or the criminal justice system. A certified living wage employer, Pallet employs around 80 people, giving them an opportunity for not only income but also support, training, and community. At the same time, because Pallet’s employees have lived experience with homelessness and other issues, they are able to bring their experience and insights to bear on the company’s work, products, and processes.

The additional needs of their employees are what led the Kings to start Weld, a nonprofit that provides wraparound services, like housing, employment, and connection to community resources. Although Amy still serves as board president, she says she has been able to hand all of the day-to-day work at Weld to people with lived experience. Weld has just under 20 full-time employees as well as hundreds of others through Weld Works contract staffing.

Workers for Pallet building shelters

“Weld was recently awarded $9 million by the state of Washington and the federal government to create the first- ever comprehensive reentry resource center in the state of Washington,” Amy shared.

There is also a lot on the horizon for Pallet.

“We are growing very fast,” Amy said. “Of course, Pallet’s growth is bittersweet because it means displacement is on the rise and our services are more needed. But one of the things I love most about Pallet is that it is a social enterprise. We have the narrative and demeanor of a nonprofit but the sustainability and standards of a for-profit.”

To date, Pallet has mostly served the unsheltered homeless population. “Now, we are actively working with the federal government to provide community resources, employment, and shelter to people displaced by natural disasters as well as asylum seekers and international refugee communities,” Amy said. “We will definitely have opportunities to expand internationally over the next two to five years and create jobs in those communities as well.”

Also just launched are Pallet’s new upgraded shelter products, which were reengineered using feedback from people who have lived in the current models.

“The new product design builds on the successful foundation of Pallet’s previous interim shelter line, informed by feedback from residents of the over 120 Pallet shelter communities across the country and realized by a team of in-house engineers,” reads the press release on the new products. “The new line includes a 70 sq. ft Sleeper model and a 120 sq. ft EnSuite model, which is the first Pallet sleeping cabin to include in-unit hygiene facilities for populations who would benefit from this accessibility.”

Interior model of new Pallet shelters

Pallet is also in the research and development phase of looking into more permanent housing products that could eventually be made available to those historically excluded from homeownership by racism, criminal justice system history, prior evictions, or other obstacles.

“We are very interested in the housing as social justice space,” Amy said. “We want to further expand our workforce model around the country to allow more opportunities for more people and, at the same time, train the workforce we need to build housing. We are planning a new apprenticeship program for people who struggle with traditional educational environments, offering on-job training while they are working and getting paid.”

Although working with a population in recovery from traumatic life events can often be challenging, Amy and Brady are so grateful for the opportunity. For those they have lost to suicide, recidivism, or other heartbreaking situations, they have seen so many more overcome their past to build lives of meaning and purpose.

“For me, the biggest, most rewarding part is the workforce development side,” Amy said. “I love working with our people. Everything we do is to provide living wage jobs in our community. It is so rewarding to see hundreds of people in our local community as they go from ‘I don’t know what to do next’ to building careers, getting married, buying cars, and houses … Being present for that change is the best part.”

Brady agrees. “When we had our first Christmas party, we realized that our employees’ children that they had not met or seen for years now had fathers and mothers back in their lives, and some of them were getting their first Christmas presents because we employed [their parents]. They have clothes; they can eat; they have a place to live.

Pallet shelters exterior

The ripple effect is gigantic. And these people are so dedicated to helping one another. They continually give to each other.”

In addition to being inspired by their employees, the Kings draw strength from their faith.

“Early on when it was really hard and stressful – being an entrepreneur is really hard and draining – I wanted to dig in and understand what this calling was all about,” Amy shared. She took three days to fast and pray and ask God for direction. “At the end of three days, I was starving of course, and there was no magic epiphany. Then that night, I had a dream, one of the most vivid of my life.” In the dream she was standing with Brady and people in leadership in their companies, and they were all linking arms and kneeling.

Behind them was a sea of people who all had chains around their ankles that had been broken. “I thought maybe this was God trying to tell me we are on the right path. This was seven or eight years ago. Now I can see the faces of thousands of people and their children and children’s children [who have been impacted by our work]. It may seem small to us at times, but this work has a generational impact.”

Their belief in their calling helps the Kings through the hard times and the incredible amount of work it takes to run their businesses and advocate for others. With Square Peg recently wrapped up, Brady has more time to invest in Pallet as well as at home with Harleigh and Piper (he finds the time to coach both their volleyball teams as well).

“We need to keep going,” Brady said. “We are not done yet.”

Christine is the editor of the Viewpoint magazine at PLNU.