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Donated goods stolen from center for needy

January 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles police are searching for the thieves who broke into a Van Nuys assisted-living center and stole donated goods intended for the area's needy. This could be a case of the poor stealing from the poor. The operators of non-profit Independent Living Center of Southern California in Van Nuys say for years they've been a place of last resort for mentally and physically disabled in need in the San Fernando Valley. That's why they say they are shocked and outraged that someone, or several people, broke into a storage shed behind their building and stole donated items that were to be given to the people they helped.

"We have people with disabilities that are really at a poverty level, and having soap, bleach and toothbrushes are something that is very important to them," said Norma Vescovo, executive director of Independent Living Center of Southern California. "And it's not something that they can afford out of their budget -- shoes for the children, clothes, and that's what was in the shed."

"Well it looks like somebody broke in on Friday night, and was able to bend the door open from the bottom and top," said supervisor William Diaz.

Center supervisor William Diaz says when he discovered the shed had been broken into Monday morning at work, he was heartbroken.

"I would say, actually 100 percent of our clients, are [living on] $800 a month," said Diaz. "So some of them are not even able to pay the rent, never the less buy the supplies they need for their children. So you know it does hurt them a lot."

"We've been here for 35 years in the building. We've never had anything taken," said Vescovo.

Vescovo says she has no idea what to tell her clients in need because she says all that's left in the shed are just a couple of boxes of tissues. She said $16,000 worth of merchandise was stolen Friday night, and now they have nothing.

"I love the clients," said Diaz. "We have to turn back right now until we start getting some supplies back."

Vescovo had words for the suspect or suspects.

"It's bad enough you're robbing places, but don't take from the poor," said Vescovo.

Van Nuys police say they don't have any leads or suspects. Vescovo is asking for the public to help replace what was stolen.