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As city of Orange threatens Mary’s Kitchen with closure, state officials come to defense

When the city of Orange sent Mary’s Kitchen a letter prematurely terminating its lease last month, many of the hundreds of homeless people the nonprofit serves were left wondering what they will do next.

On Thursday morning, state Sen. Dave Min and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva took a tour of Mary’s Kitchen and voiced their support for the nonprofit.

Quirk-Silva said she’s known about Mary’s Kitchen for years but heard about the lease termination about six weeks ago. Mary’s Kitchen has been operating in Orange since the mid-1980s and has been at its current location, at 517 W. Struck Ave., since 1994.

“So here, Orange has this one example that we can clearly see is being used, and now they’re going to push this out,” Quirk-Silva said. “What’s their strategy for closing this and how are they going to respond? The truth is, they don’t want to. They want to just close this down and then let somebody else deal with the problem.”

Mary’s Kitchen is a humble nonprofit driven by donations and volunteers, some of whom are themselves homeless.

Min said it’s an attempt to sweep the problem of homelessness under the rug. Yet he said that closing Mary’s Kitchen would only exacerbate the issue, as the homeless individuals who frequent the nonprofit will then spread into the wider community.

“They’re not going to disappear,” Min said. “They’re going to still be in Orange County, still in this area. They’re just going to move to the streets. They’re going to move to bus shelters. They’re going to get less care. They’re going to be sicker, and it will cost us more, as far as our services.

“Homelessness is not a city-by-city problem, it’s a regional problem. As someone who represents Orange but also a number of other cities that are impacted by homelessness, if Orange shuts this place down, that will overall have detrimental impacts to the region I represent. So, I think it’s totally appropriate for me to weigh in here as a state representative.”

Michael Sean Wright, founder of Wound Walk OC — which provides first-aid treatment to the homeless, echoed Min’s remarks on Thursday.

“People here are accustomed to know that they can come here to get help,” Wright said. “If we were to shut down this community resource, where are these folks going to go?”

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