At the 11th hour, a federal judge has temporarily barred the City of Orange from its controversial eviction of a longstanding homeless soup kitchen, which has operated off city property for decades.

Orange officials intended to boot the kitchen from city property by 5 p.m. Saturday, according to City Hall spokesman Paul Sitkoff.

“Closing Mary’s Kitchen would further strain already burdened City services by spreading unhoused individuals throughout the City and County, making delivery of targeted services more challenging,” states a Sept. 17 minute order from U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter. 

“Beyond the individual Plaintiffs, there are over 300 unhoused members of the public who would be harmed by the closure of Mary’s Kitchen,” Carter’s minute order reads. 

The order comes after a prominent regional attorney for homeless people, Brooke Weitzman of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, filed this week for a temporary restraining order preventing the city from forcing the kitchen out. 

Weitzman shared the minute order with Voice of OC on Friday.

Read it here.

City officials told Mary’s Kitchen earlier this year that, after decades of letting volunteers feed, clothe and bathe homeless people on tucked-away city property, the establishment had to go.

Sitkoff said he couldn’t comment on the order as of Friday afternoon, adding he has yet to hear from the city’s attorney on the issue.

The minute order reads: 

“The employees and agents of the City of Orange are enjoined from taking any actions to terminate the lease of Mary’s Kitchen, including but not limited to obstructing Plaintiff’s access to the property or preventing Plaintiff’s provision of food, hygiene, and medical services, until such time as this matter can be further litigated in the hearing on the preliminary injunction.”

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30 at 9 a.m., and the restraining order “shall remain in effect until the Court rules on the preliminary injunction,” the order states. 

Carter has issued similar orders before. 

In a 2018 civil lawsuit against Orange County and some cities, Carter blocked county officials from evicting hundreds of homeless people from the Santa Ana Riverbed, near Angel Stadium and the Honda Center. 

Weitzman was also one of the lead attorneys in that case. 

[Read: Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Riverbed Homeless Evictions]

Shortly afterwards, Carter walked the entire length of the homeless camps with county officials to formulate a strategy on what to do next. 

Carter and county supervisors agreed to move the homeless people from the Santa Ana Riverbed to motel rooms as the county and cities, like Anaheim and Santa Ana, built more homeless shelters.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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