Mary’s Kitchen has until June 10 to feed and provide supplies to local homeless people, while the organization struggles to find a new location for its operation.
But the city also needs to continue providing the existing services for one year to local homeless people under a fresh agreement made between Orange and Mary’s Kitchen in federal court.
Lawyers representing Mary’s Kitchen and the City of Orange met Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge David Carter to hammer out an agreement.
Although the previous eviction deadline for the day shelter was May 1, the city and Mary’s Kitchen agreed on June 10 as the date for the homeless services center to move, according to a legal filing sent to Voice of OC by Brooke Weitzman, lawyer for Mary’s Kitchen.
Last year, Local city officials decided to force the kitchen to leave after voicing concerns about rising crime from guests in the area.
Mary’s Kitchen has been operating on Struck Avenue for the past 27 years.
Now, the kitchen has until June 10 to stop providing services, but the City of Orange must replace those services for a full year following that deadline with court oversight.
Although the kitchen will be gone, the city will continue feeding and supplying homeless people on Struck Avenue.
The agreement states the City of Orange will provide a year’s worth of services on local homeless people from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
These services include eight showers stalls, six portable toilets, two hot meals a day, non-perishable food, mail services, free washers and dryers and referrals to other local services.
Weitzman told Voice of OC the agreement allows for uninterrupted services for a year while Mary’s Kitchen finds a new location.
Gloria Suess, President and CEO of Mary’s Kitchen, said they are waiting to find the suitable location to make the move as easy as possible.
However, Suess said even if they can’t find the ideal location, they aren’t planning on going away anytime soon.
“We are not going to cease to exist,” Suess said in an April 13 phone interview. “[We’re] just trying to find different ways to still serve those that need to be served. People still have to eat and get clothes and shower and charge their phones and be loved.”
Thursday’s agreement also states that Mary’s Kitchen won’t try to delay the eviction past the new June 10 deadline.
Mary’s Kitchen has served the local homeless community in Orange since 1984, when 82-year-old Mary McAnena started serving hot meals in Hart Park.
A decade later, the organization moved into its new headquarters on Struck Avenue.
The organization is being forced to move after Orange City Council members ended their licensing agreement with the kitchen in July 2021 due to concerns of criminal activity in the area.
Arrests in the Mary’s Kitchen area jumped from 28 in 2017 to 155 in 2018 before dipping to 66 in 2019. City officials pointed to this data as reasoning for the kitchen’s eviction.
Although Suess emphasized that the operation has security guards and all the criminal activity happens outside their gates, city officials hold that the kitchen attracts crime to the area.
Suess said they are struggling to find a new location because the zoning for a homeless resource center is very specific and hard to come across in Orange County.
Additionally, potential locations they found would force them to give up some of their services.
“What if we can’t get an extension? What are we willing to do?” Suess said. “To move, we have to take everything with us. It’s hard to take everything with us if we have nowhere to go … We’d like a seamless move where we can move right from here into another place and not miss a day of serving our homeless. That was our plan. Now I don’t know how that’s going to work.”
Suess said she has viewed potential locations in Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Anaheim, but none of the options have been suitable so far.
“There really isn’t any place at the moment,” Suess said. “That doesn’t mean tomorrow something won’t come up. We’ve had lots of realtors looking … We have not had much luck on that. We’ve come close a couple times, but then the figures didn’t work.”
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.