Orange County

Mary's Kitchen, Long a Homeless Sanctuary in Orange County, Might Have to Move Out

The city says what’s happening outside the gates is creating an unreasonable demand on city services.

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It's a place to get a free meal, a shower, even charge a cell phone. But now Mary's Kitchen in Orange is being told the nonprofit must move out by the end of September.

But the group is not going without a fight.

Mary's Kitchen has been operating for more than 20 years since the city leased them the land for $1 a year.

Organizers say they thought they had a partnership with the city to help those they call the unfortunate. Not all are homeless.

The group relies on donations to gather and then distribute nearly 200 meals a day. There is a place to shower, to do laundry. There is no place to sleep.

"We're all in it to get them off the streets," said Gloria Suess, the director. "That's everybody's goal, to help them get a productive life.

But city officials say what's happening outside the gates is creating an unreasonable demand on city services. They say police were called to the area more than 160 times in six months.


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So in June they gave Mary's Kitchen 90 days to pack up and move out.

"It does make me sad trying to shut down something so beautiful to so many people," said Hannah Hahn, a volunteer.

A lawyer for the group is putting the city on notice saying there is no legal basis to break their lease and that closing this operation can't be done without a public hearing.

In a statement the city said it is working with Mary's Kitchen, which could include a new location with a new model.

"Our hope is for a positive outcome," the statement said.

The kitchen was started by Mary McKenna based on what she called Christian principles.

Organizers say they are praying they'll be able to stay or find a new location. The city's deadline is the end of September.

The next step, say organizers, is to take a contingency of supporters to a City Council meeting. City officials say they still trying to work this all out.

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