TimesOC: Many could go hungry if Mary’s Kitchen is evicted this weekend

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, Sept. 17. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

Hundreds of homeless people may be without food and other necessities if the longstanding nonprofit Mary’s Kitchen is forced to close on Saturday.

Since the city of Orange sent a letter in June terminating its lease three years early, the homeless nonprofit has fought to stay at its current location at the end of an industrial cul-de-sac, where it has operated since 1994.

In a last-minute effort to stop the city from clearing the nonprofit, an attorney representing Mary’s Kitchen filed a temporary restraining order on Wednesday, contending that the clients of Mary’s Kitchen will be endangered if the nonprofit is closed down because it’s the only homeless service provider in the city for adults without minor children.

“The city issued the termination notice without authority, or any opportunity for pre-deprivation due process, and on an unconstitutional basis,” the legal document says. “If the city is permitted to shut down Mary’s Kitchen, significant harm will occur to the hundreds of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities plaintiff serves and for whom this is the only place in the city to access basic hygiene facilities and sustenance, receive their benefits and other important mail and, critically, the only place in the city to find some protection from the elements during the day.”

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. Showers and laundry facilities are available, and the nonprofit receives mail for hundreds of people.

But 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.

“A civil society requires rules and laws, as well as compassion,” Orange City Councilman Chip Monaco said at a meeting this week. “Mary’s Kitchen has become a place where compassion overlooks the law.”

Brooke Weitzman, the attorney representing Mary’s Kitchen, takes umbrage with the city’s claims in the restraining order and a lawsuit she filed last week citing violations of California’s housing laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Environmental Quality Act and several constitutional infringements.

The lawsuit contends that the city has failed to provide adequate housing and shelter for its homeless population and is now seeking to shut down the only service provider in Orange focusing on homeless adults who don’t have children. The nonprofit serves about 330 people, with the majority of them suffering from at least one disability, the lawsuit says.

“There is no other provider serving this community in the city, so the migration of unhoused seniors, disabled and economically marginalized persons experiencing homelessness is inevitable,” the lawsuit reads. “More importantly, many will likely die if the city’s only homeless service provider is closed.”

Many have risen up to support Mary’s Kitchen, including state Sen. Dave Min and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. An online petition to save Mary’s Kitchen has gathered almost 8,000 signatures.

On Thursday, Min sent a letter to the Orange City Council voicing his opposition to the closure of Mary’s Kitchen.

“I write to you today to express my strongest opposition to your planned eviction of Mary’s Kitchen, a longstanding local institution that represents the best of Orange County’s values in serving those who are most vulnerable,” Min says in the letter. “At a time when our community is still struggling to navigate through the public health, mental health, and economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, I find it unconscionable that the city of Orange would eliminate one of its major providers of services for the unhoused, effectively passing this responsibility on to its neighboring cities.”

Weitzman said in an interview on Thursday that the homeless people who rely on Mary’s Kitchen are “terrified” about how they will find access to needed resources if the nonprofit closes this weekend.

For many of the homeless, the nonprofit is a sanctuary.

Charles Cousert hadn’t eaten in days before he found Mary’s Kitchen, where he was given food and clothes.

He said he would have died if it weren’t for the nonprofit.

“This place is literally a blessing,” Cousert said. “It’s a sanctuary.”

Starla Acosta, 65, has lunch at Mary's Kitchen in Orange on Tuesday, July 13.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)


Now that the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom has been put to bed, Orange County Democrats and Republicans are setting their sights on next year’s midterm elections. Republican leadership is confident that, despite roundly losing the recall effort, they will be able to secure a victory over Newsom with the right candidate. Despite the win, there’s no rest for Democrats. “Our eye is on taking back the two congressional seats that were so close and ... make some deep in-roads into the county supervisors that were so crucial especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said O.C. Democrat Chairwoman Ada Briceño. “We saw what Californians think yesterday about our pandemic relief, so I think that’s very telling.” Daily Pilot

In the latest in anti-masking news, a resolution calling for an end to mask mandates in some Huntington Beach schools wasn’t addressed this week after the person who proposed the item left a school district meeting before being called on. The resolution was affiliated with the group “Let Them Breathe,” which is supposedly comprised of 12,000 parents who are “concerned about the detrimental effects of masks on their children’s mental, physical, emotional and social health.” Apparently they aren’t concerned enough to sit through a meeting. The group also proposed the same resolution in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District this week, but the board declined to move forward with it. Daily Pilot

An Orange County judge recused himself from a murder trial this week because he endorsed the lead prosecutor on the case, Ebrahim Baytieh, who allegedly withheld crucial evidence from the defense for a decade. It’s the latest in the saga of Paul Gentile Smith, who was originally sentenced to life in state prison for torture and murder before a judge granted a retrial after sheriff’s deputies refused to testify in court about their alleged misuse of illegal jailhouse informants. According to the defense, Baytieh also concealed the use of jailhouse informants in order to get Smith’s conviction. TimesOC

The Anaheim City Council appointed a new council member this week, about a month after Jordan Brandman resigned due to facing pressure for derogatory comments he made at a former council member. This week’s decision was not without controversy. Two council members chose to abstain after criticizing the lack of transparency in the decision-making process. “One of the things that’s an important ethic in searches is that all candidates are actually sitting and interviewed by the people making the vote together,” Councilman Jose Moreno said. “This process was very difficult and very much counter to what I consider to be ways of being fair to all candidates.” TimesOC

A majority of Anaheim council members voted to appoint Gloria Ma'ae to serve out the rest of the term in District 2.
(Gabriel San Roman)

A jury has deadlocked in the case of Jeremy Holloway, a homeless Marine veteran who alleges he was badly beaten by Orange County sheriff’s deputies. However, deputies described the 2018 confrontation very differently when they testified over an 11-day trial that was meant to last four days. The deputy accused of striking Holloway in the face said the homeless man hit his face on gravel, and that he had to use a Taser on Holloway in order to handcuff him. TimesOC


The field that the Los Angeles Chargers used for training may be rezoned for high-density housing after Costa Mesa city officials discussed the issue this week as part of updating its housing element. As California’s housing crisis continues to grow, cities are tasked with planning for more housing. Costa Mesa is on the hook for 11,760 additional units by 2029. Daily Pilot

The 2021 World Surf League Championship Tour finished up this week with some powerful waves and big showings from some of surfing’s finest. Check out these photos of the event. Daily Pilot

An arrest warrant has been issued in Venezuela for Angels player Luis Rengifo for allegedly forging divorce papers so he can sell property without consent from his wife. The Angels have not commented on the situation. Rengifo said he hired an attorney but cannot comment on the warrant due to pending legal proceedings. Angels manager Joe Maddon said that Rengifo will continue to be in the Angels lineup unless something changes. L.A. Times


The Segerstrom Center for the Arts will host an intergenerational cultural movement event on Friday to honor Hispanic Heritage Month. Cumbiaton was started by Dj Sizzle Fantastic and Normz la Oaxaqueña to use music and art to uplift oppressed communities. With backgrounds in social justice, the two friends hope that their event will present a safe space for anybody to feel welcome and dance. TimesOC

A photo of the Cumbiaton team.
(Courtesy of Yaquelin Hernandez)

During the pandemic, the Latino community has taken the brunt of the COVID-19 cases in Orange County and has received fewer vaccines. The owner of a Santa Ana restaurant is hoping to do his part to help the Latino community. This week, Oscar Olivares, owner of El Indio Botanas y Cerveza, hosted a vaccine clinic in his restaurant. “I was born and raised here, and I am very familiar with everything that is Santa Ana cultural,” Olivares said. “This is one of the best things I can do for my little hometown.” TimesOC

Ruben Salazar has spent the last five years transforming a parking lot on First Street in Santa Ana into an outdoor exhibition of murals from local artists. The pieces are anchored by important social justice messages and forces those who pass by to think about the unjust death of a young woman, the violence suffered by the LGBTQ members of the Black community and the cultures of Santa Ana that have been pushed to the shadows by gentrification. Salazar hopes that the Blue Lot will help spark change in the community where he was born and raised. TimesOC


Columnist Patrice Apodaca wrote about a few UC Irvine professors who are working to solve the ensuing climate crisis. One professor is developing new models to estimate how infrastructure can hold up against fires and flooding, which are becoming more common as climate change worsens. Another professor is researching the ins and outs of wildfires — a fairly important topic considering parts of California are currently on fire. Daily Pilot

Question of the Week

Orange County is a big, diverse community with a bustling entertainment and tourist industry. Yet the county has major hurdles to overcome — homelessness, climate change, political corruption and law enforcement misconduct. Oh, and a pandemic. We want to hear your opinions on these subjects!

Each week, we’ll ask you a new question and post some of the answers in the following newsletter.

Last week, we asked you: How have you been affected by mosquitoes this summer?

Here are a few responses we got:

“This year the mosquitoes have made sitting outside impossible. I had Vector Control inspect my yard and neighborhood with no apparent reason for the attacking blood suckers. The bites have sent me to urgent care several times and cause a great deal of pain and grief.” —Lynda Jenkins

“The arrival of the Aedes aegypti mosquito is especially annoying because during the coronavirus pandemic, the safest environment is the outdoors and I can’t help but hate the fact that as soon as I am bitten, the outdoors is ruined for me as a direct result from the pain. Tons of families in Orange County have the privilege of “indoor/outdoor living” and I really believe that privilege is slowly eroding.” —Raine Vanderoef

“I have seen very few mosquitos this year, in large part due to it being so dry, especially in the mountains. In my yard, I make sure there is no standing water and wash out and refill my bird bath every few days to prevent mosquitos.” —Kathy Hanson

I seem to be immune, something about blood types, but my wife has been “devastated.” Multiple bites daily. She keeps a fan on high directed only at her to help keep them off.” —Gene

Now for this week’s question (please keep your answer to 75 words or less):

Should Mary’s Kitchen be allowed to stay at its current location? Why or why not?

Send your answer to Ben at

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