Aunt Mary’s, the down-home and community-minded Temescal eatery that opens for breakfast around 8 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., was famous in the neighborhood for its commitment to providing an evening place to sleep for local homeless people.

For years, there was an ongoing after-dark lineup of homeless people, who worked together to organize their bedding, bedrolls and possessions into orderly arrangements inside the restaurant’s front patio, where it seemed like between 6 and 11 people often spent the night. Amazingly, by 7:15 a.m., as the restaurant staff started to get in for work, the front porch would become miraculously clean and empty, all ready for the daytime chairs and tables to be brought out and breakfast service to start at 8 a.m.

However, when I was on Telegraph Avenue a couple of nights ago, I noticed that the front of Aunt Mary’s was now secured by an imposing and heavy-duty mesh metal gate that locked shut in front of the patio.

I reached out to Jack Stewart and Nu Ho, the couple who have owned and operated Aunt Mary’s since it opened in 2008 to find out more.

Did the restaurant add the gate because getting ready in the morning became too challenging? Was the community resistant to their hosting homeless folks?ca697f3df909783f07a6b7bb00041920-450-190

I reached out to Nu and Jack in an email and asked them what the deal was, and it sounds like there were a combination of factors, some having to do with the homeless folks, and some not.

Not everyone sleeping on the porch was about to keep it clean when they left in the morning, and a few “had a hassling, sometimes hostile, attitude towards opening staff in the morning.”

Homeless folks might keep the patio clean, but they made messes for neighboring businesses and tenants upstairs.

Aunt Mary’s had constant complaints about homeless people trashing, defecating and/or urinating on store fronts, stairwells, the street corner, and on the 43rd street side. Some of the people affected threatened to complain to the city.

The final straw, according to Jack and Nu, was a break-in a few months ago.

Nu said, “We got broken into in the middle of the night. Both of our doors were torn open, the cash drawer was crashed, minimal cash was lost, but the most damage was what was done to the doors. Our camera showed that whoever did it actually ran the homeless away so he could ‘work’ on the doors. Police were alerted by our security company, however, didn’t show up until morning…”

For the owners, that was the final straw, and the gate — which the landlord helped pay for — became the best option.

Aunt Mary’s

4307 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland 94609

(510) 601-9227

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local ( a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

3 Responses

  1. Oakie

    I can’t wait till Mayor Dan Siegel solves this problem for us. Maybe he will propose an ordinance to make front doors illegal, given the pain and suffering the 1% cause to the quiet enjoyment of all the facilities by the 99%. And, of course, tax increases to pay the cost of removing those doors.

  2. Matt of Uptown

    I find the authors POV incredibly naïve -and I can relate to it. I have a large stairway off the public sidewalk on my property and originally I had no issue with anyone taking a seat and waiting for someone or just resting for a few minutes. Then came the beer cans/liquor bottles… the snack package garbage… the forgotten drugs… the attempted break-in.. the shouting match with someone while their friend vomited on the stairs… and this past New Years Eve while I was out a couple had a messy 45 min love romp on the stairs. I’m now working on a 6ft gate, because I have come to the conclusion I do not have the resources or energy to be the neighborhood social worker. I feel for the addicts and mentally ill, but I cannot change anything leaving my private property open for their use. We need to accept that like street lights, and sidewalks -we need to pay taxes to help addicts and the mentally ill live a life with dignity. With so many concerned citizens in Oakland (like this author) we should be able to make that happen, right?

  3. Elizabeth August

    I don’t understand the point of this story. It’s not even particularly timely as this gate has been in place for many months. Seems more like an aimless Facebook post than a “news” story.


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