Attorneys for Mary’s Kitchen, which serves transients in Orange, filed a temporary restraining order request in federal court Wednesday to attempt to stop the city from evicting the nonprofit organization.

“Mary’s Kitchen has been the only service provider in the city of Orange for unhoused adults without children for over three decades,” the attorneys said in the complaint. “The day shelter operates in furtherance of its religious beliefs to serve those in need of sustenance and place of respite.

“Repeatedly, the city identified Mary’s Kitchen as a resource to meet the state statutory housing element required for approval of the city’s general plan for development. Not only has the city put forward Mary’s Kitchen’s services to satisfy state law mandates, it also identified the day shelter as available services to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, where both the city of Orange and the county of Orange held Mary’s Kitchen out as a model service provider with no cost to the government.”

But now city officials want the organization out of its property at 517 W. Struck Ave. by Saturday.

Paul Sitkoff, a city spokesman, said the city’s attorneys have “reviewed the filing and believes it to be without merit.”

The city’s attorneys were working on a response, Sitkoff said.

“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 Saturday, Sept. 18.”

City officials could not respond further, Sitkoff said.

The attorneys representing Mary’s Kitchen were the same ones involved in the lawsuit to clear the riverbed in Anaheim that led to a major settlement in the county allowing for cities to clear out homeless encampments while providing shelter for transients.

It is not clear if this temporary restraining order request will be linked to that settlement. It is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Selna instead of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who oversaw the prior settlement.

The attorneys say Mary’s Kitchen offers “wrap-around services to approximately 330 individuals, the majority of whom have one or more disabilities.”

Those services include meals, an address for transients to have benefits mailed to them, a place to clean up and relieve themselves, charging stations for electronic devices, clothes and laundry and medical appointments.

The shelter is near the city’s police station. And the attorneys said it struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic as it shut down and limited services last year.

City officials alerted Mary’s Kitchen in September 2020 about concerns regarding transients loitering around the shelter and requested the nonprofit organization hire a private professional security company. Mary’s Kitchen did that at “great cost,” the attorneys said.

After the city issued a notice to vacate the property, officials offered services to the homeless “for the first time” last month, the attorneys said.

“That occurred only once in the last month and appeared to be more hype for the media than help for the guests of Mary’s Kitchen,” the attorneys said in the court papers.

No one was there to help enroll the participants in the state’s program to provide shelter, the attorneys said.

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