An attorney representing Mary’s Kitchen believes the city of Orange’s plan to transition away from the nonprofit is grossly inadequate and will leave homeless people without vital services.
The nonprofit has been fighting to stay open since the city sent Mary’s Kitchen a letter in June terminating its lease three years early. Mary’s Kitchen has been operating in Orange since the mid-1980s and has been at its current location, 517 W. Struck Ave., since 1994.
A nonprofit driven by donations and volunteers, hundreds have come to rely on the various services that Mary’s Kitchen offers, which include three meals, six days a week, to anyone who seeks them out. Clothing, showers and laundry facilities are available, and the nonprofit receives mail for hundreds of people.
The city contends that the nonprofit has become a magnet for crime and doesn’t fit into a continuum of care approach to solving homelessness, identified as a “comprehensive regional” strategy. Brooke Weitzman, the attorney representing Mary’s Kitchen, has maintained that the city and police seem to be unfairly blaming Mary’s Kitchen for crimes that are being committed on the street where the nonprofit is located, rather than solely the calls for service within the nonprofit’s walls.
The city and nonprofit have been engaging in legal mediation for the last few weeks under the guidance of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. The two parties were meeting Wednesday to discuss the city’s proposed plan to transition away from Mary’s Kitchen and the nonprofit’s legal response to it. Weitzman said Mary’s Kitchen has informed the city they are actively seeking a new home and would agree to move within 18 months.
“In truth, the plan submitted by the city is no plan at all,” says Weitzman’s court filing, which was submitted on Monday. “It forces more than 300 unhoused persons to travel to other cities in search of replacement services with no consideration for their disabilities, or the time involved in going from city to city to meet basic needs, all of which are now available in one location at Mary’s Kitchen.
”Because the city’s plan disperses people to other cities for the same services now provided in one location at Mary’s Kitchen, many of [Mary’s Kitchen’s] clients will likely be unable to navigate the travel involved to access services now available in one location. As it stands now, [Mary’s Kitchen’s] clients can do their laundry, take a shower, use the bathroom, pick up mail and medications, and see medical personnel all in one place. They are not forced to choose between missing meals while they travel an hour to another location to wash their clothes, or to other cities to pick up their mail.”