Oceanside Industrial Park businesses petition against Brother Benno Foundation
The Brother Benno Foundation has been in Oceanside’s Industrial Park for over 30 years, but some of the center's neighbors aren’t happy with them.
A petition has been started asking the City of Oceanside to revoke Brother Benno's conditional use permit (CUP).
That permit lets Brother Benno’s operate in the business park — as long as their operations aren’t detrimental to the public or nearby properties.
The petitioners say they’ve been dealing with loitering, theft and substance abuse at the site, and that Brother Benno’s is not living up to the conditions of the permit.
“I’ve watched it escalate for over a decade, and it's not fair to us. I don't see a future here," said Dane Hantz, a business owner near Brother Benno's. "My neighbor doesn't go to the dumpster without a gun on him. I can’t have my daughters work here. How is this fair to me? This is not fair.”
Hantz says he has seen things like people using dumpsters as toilets.
"My dumpster… they cleaned it and disinfected it and the rain has washed a lot out, but it's dangerous. I was concerned about hepatitis, I didn't wanna touch it, I wear gloves anytime I need to go out there. It's not right," he said.
The Brother Benno's Center has been operating out of the 12,000-square foot warehouse on Production Avenue since 1991.
"Over the years, it's evolved into a really comprehensive one-stop-shop for basically anybody, that could be encountering any type of difficulties in life," says Ben Meyer, the essential services manager with Brother Benno's.
The center offers resources Monday through Saturday to people in need in the community.
"We serve breakfast to hundreds of unsheltered individuals, low-income, working class, poor individuals (daily)," Meyer said. "We deal with hundreds of families who rely on us for their grocery items and for their diapers and hygiene products and everything under the sun. We allow people to get their mail here.”
Hantz shared images of some of the things he’s encountered outside of his business. He said most of the people pictured are getting some kind of resource from Brother Benno's.
“I'm frustrated with Benno's, because I don't feel like compassion fixes this situation. I feel like it keeps people complacent in their circumstance, and I think that its prolonged it," he said.
Jesse O’Hara also has a business near Brother Benno's. He said he feels torn because he sees families going to the center for food, but he supports the petition because the small number of people causing problems has gone ignored for too long.
"If someone is sleeping in front of our door, we’re not supposed to wake them up and say ‘excuse me.' We're supposed to wait for the cops to come wake them up and ... It's just not right. It's not a good situation and no one is really doing anything about this in my opinion," O'Hara said.
Oceanside Police Department said they have issued 72 citations in the business park since September 2022.
The department is also partnering with businesses in the area to conduct site evaluations for any improvements that could be made to reduce crimes on the property.
Meyer acknowledges the problems the business owners are reporting, but he says the people causing them are just a handful out of the 5,000 individuals registered at Brother Benno’s.
"It's a very small number of people, incredibly small. Which would lead most people to say ‘well why can't you manage it?’ Which is a question we all have. We all wonder what can we do? How do we find somewhere for people to go? These are human beings," Meyer said.
Brother Benno's owns their building, and they don’t get any financial support from government agencies. Meyer says they’re doing the best they can with what they have — but pushing this problem to somebody else's front yard isn't going to solve the problem.
"It comes back to, we signed up to help people, some people didn't sign up to help people, they signed up to make money, and that's ok. But we're going to continue to do our best to help people," Meyer said.
But they’ll be doing their best with some new limitations.
As a result of the petition, Brother Benno's is now closing earlier and they’ve hired more security to patrol the area.
They implemented those changes just last week.
Business owners like Dane Hantz say it will be a few weeks before he can say whether the changes have brought improvements.