Orange soup kitchen that fed homeless for decades fights to stay open despite order to close

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A soup kitchen in Orange that was being forced by the city to close its doors by Saturday — despite calls from homeless people and volunteers who are rallying to keep the community institution open — can stay open at least a little longer, a judge said Friday.

Mary’s Kitchen has served thousands of meals a month to the homeless for more than 20 years, first opening in the 1980s and then moving to its current location on West Struck Avenue in 1994. The nonprofit is run on donations and feeds people six days a week, also providing a place to take a shower and do laundry.

But the institution is on city-owned property, and local officials sent Mary’s Kitchen a termination letter saying they must surrender the premises — three years earlier than expected — because there have been too many calls for service to police at the location in recent years.

An attorney for the soup kitchen filed a restraining order in court to try to stop the city from shutting the kitchen down this Saturday. If Mary’s Kitchen closes, it will endanger unhoused people, the lawyer said, adding that it’s the only location in the area that helps adults without young children.

“Our City’s legal counsel has reviewed the filing and believes it to be without merit,” city spokesperson Paul Sitkoff said in a statement to KTLA early Friday. “We are currently preparing an appropriate response. As far as we are concerned, this does not alter the situation, and we expect Mary’s Kitchen to vacate the city property no later than this Saturday, September 18.”

But later Friday, a Santa Ana judge granted a temporary restraining order, allowing Mary’s Kitchen to stay open until a hearing for a preliminary injunction on Sept. 30.

Sitkoff told the Los Angeles Times Friday that the city will comply with the temporary restraining order.

Homeless people who frequent Mary’s Kitchen say they’re desperate to keep the place open.

“I don’t want to start crying because she’s done a lot for us,” Victoria Richardson, who is homeless, says about CEO Gloria Suess. “This lady has seen me blind, she has seen me with holes in my feet … She has gone way above and beyond what you can even imagine.” 

“Gloria is like our momma. All the homeless people feel the same way. They just love her, ” volunteer Michaela Aherne added. “She just does so much. … She pays people’s parking tickets, she pays their court issues … If you ask her for anything, she’ll give it to you.” 

But during a city council meeting this week, Orange Mayor Mark Murphy and councilmember Chip Monaco said there is increased crime on the street where the kitchen is located, the Times reported.

“A civil society requires rules and laws, as well as compassion,” Monaco said. “Mary’s Kitchen has become a place where compassion overlooks the law.”

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