The Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Oceanside served its last meal to homeless people on Wednesday as the nonprofit shuttered its dining hall, pantry, thrift store and offices after 17 years at its Apple Street location.
The mission’s closure had been planned for months and is in anticipation of the opening of an Oceanside navigation center that will provide shelter and various services for 50 people. Both are run by the San Diego Rescue Mission.
The timing, however, isn’t ideal because the navigation center is not expected to open for three or four months.
“It had been our hope that the transition would be seamless from the Bread of Life facility to the Oceanside navigation center, but there’s been delays in constructions and contracts, so there will be a bit of a gap between services at Bread of Life and our services and programs at the navigation center,” said Donnie Dee, president and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission.
While the gap isn’t expected to effect a large number of people, Dee admitted it is concerning.
“We’ve been troubled over that,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we just realized that we weren’t going to sign another year lease, and it just became not practical for us to continue our services and programs at that site. We decided we’d just focus everything we had on that navigation center, and let’s try to get that thing open and serving people as soon as possible.”
Bread of Life partnered with the San Diego Rescue Mission in 2020, a move intended at the time to help financially stabilize the Oceanside nonprofit. After the San Diego Rescue Mission received the contract to operate the city of Oceanside’s new shelter last November, however, Dee said it became financially impractical to operate both.
“We can’t afford to operate two properties,” he said. “We’re funding the operations of the Oceanside navigation center, and that’s a $900,000 a year project. We couldn’t afford to do a $900,000 operating budget in Oceanside and a $400,000 budget at Bread of Life. We knew that once we found beds, that’s where we’d be moving our operations.”
Bread of Life Director Tim Yzaguirre will transition as director of the navigation center.
Even when the center is open, some of the services that had been offered at Bread of Life will not be replicated. Bread of Life had served 20 or 30 evening meals six days a week, and the navigation center will serve only clients staying at the shelter.
Jem McAdams, a volunteer who runs the mobile shower program at Bread of Life, said people who came for the nightly meals were not taken by surprise because they were told weeks in advance that the mission was closing at the end of May.
On Thursday afternoon, the day after the mission closed, Pamela Jean “PJ” Mittag was the only homeless person on a sidewalk on Apple Street near the mission parking lot. Her possessions took up several feet of the sidewalk, and Mittag, who uses a wheelchair, said she had no means to move it.
Mittag said she was a little surprised by the closure, but didn’t rely on the mission’s evening meals for food and sometimes couldn’t make it to the dining area because her wheelchair is broken. On the ground next to her was a plastic container with fresh fruit, and she said people often bring her food so she doesn’t go hungry.
Brother Benno’s, which also provides services for homeless people, is about 2.5 miles to the north and serves about 100 breakfasts Monday through Friday and brunch on Saturdays, but doesn’t provide evening meals.
Kathleen Diehlmann, co-director of the Brother Bennos Foundation, said the nonprofit has not seen an impact by the mission’s closure, but also noted that it is early.
“Brother Benno’s is ready to help out any unsheltered individuals or working poor who need our assistance,” she said.
Diehlmann said the Brother Benno’s Foundation was disappointed to learn of the Bread of Life’s closure, but anticipates that the new shelter will help many people in the community who are in need.
“Working with Tim Yzaguirre and the Bread of Life has been beneficial to Brother Benno’s and the population we serve,” she said. “It is a loss to our community, and we look forward to working with the San Diego Rescue Mission in the future.”
The closure also marks the end to the Bread of Life thrift shop and the mobile shower program, which will continue to operate in the Apple Street parking lot until June 23.
Other mobile showers are operated at Brother Benno’s and at Calvary Chapel, about 3.5 miles to the east.
Dee said the San Diego Rescue Mission made a decision in October to close all of its thrift stores because they were not generating enough revenue to make them worth the effort. Besides the now-closed shop in Oceanside, it once had thrift stores in City Heights, the Midway District, National City and North Park.
Bread of Life began as a community group distributing food in a park 20 years ago, and it moved into the Apple Street site 17 years ago. It operated a winter shelter at the site for several years, but never a year-round shelter.
“What Bread of Life has done for 20 years is absolutely spectacular, impactful and significant,” Dee said. “They’ve changed a lot of lives. But we’ve got to have beds. And if we don’t have beds and case management, then ultimately we’re not changing anything. We’re just accommodating. We want to get people in beds, triage their situation, and figure out what long-term program they go to next.”
Dee said in the future the navigation center may continue the food-distribution program that had been offered at Bread of Life. The now-closed Oceanside rescue mission will be remembered in some way at the navigation center, perhaps by naming the dining hall after Bread of Life, Dee said.