Orange County nonprofit Mary’s Kitchen will have to vacate its lot this Saturday, according to local officials who argue that the organization has contributed to increasing crime and doesn’t do enough to help lift people out of homelessness.
The organization, led by 82-year-old Gloria Suess, has spent more than 25 years serving three meals a day and providing restroom facilities to unhoused people in Orange.
Organizers, who have created a petition to save Mary’s Kitchen, say if they stop serving meals, about 200 people will lose access to daily nutritious food along with showers, laundry services, and clothing. Many guests are seniors over 65 and/or disabled.
“The city is saying that Mary’s Kitchen does not fit into what they call … ‘the continuum of care’ that they envision Orange when it comes to homeless folks,” says LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano. “And this is the problem, in their eyes, with Mary's Kitchen: All they are is a soup kitchen. … Most homeless services in Orange County … you need a referral, you need an ID, it makes it really hard. Mary's one of the last places where they’ll accept anyone and they will not ask any questions.”
Arellano describes his own visit to the kitchen: “I saw nothing but order there. I saw 200 people lining up — wearing masks, by the way. And if you didn't have a mask, Mary's Kitchen would provide those masks. There was one incident where a man … was told to leave because he was yelling at people. But other than that … it was amazing. … This is more like that scene in ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ the film where the Joads go into this government camp and everything's pretty good.”