Northridge shooting: Resident defends illegal boarding home
Officials see the home in the 17400 block of Devonshire Street of Northridge where four people were killed over the weekend as a dirty, unlicensed boarding care facility. Scott Sauers, 24, said he sees it as a second chance.
Sauers said he has lived there for a month and it's keeping him off the streets.
"It's not a bad place; there's good people here," Sauers said Monday as he pushed a cart full of clothes and bags to a nearby laundromat. "They'll give you something if you're hungry.... Don't let a few rotten eggs ruin it. I was homeless and couldn't get a place to live because I didn't have credit."
Sauers said he lives in a room in the back with his girlfriend, dog and disabled father. Before finding the Northridge home, he said he had been homeless for two years. He declined to say what he pays in rent, but said it is less than the $600 to $800 a month that renting a room can often cost.
"I finally got a little break in my life and in an instant, it's probably going to get taken away," he said. "You know it's illegal to sleep on the sidewalk? The only place the cops won't bug you is if you're sleeping in the gutter. I don't want to sleep in a gutter. I have my girlfriend and dad to take care of."
The home's owner, Yag Kapil, is elderly and in poor health, Sauer said.
"He's not out to be a millionaire," Sauer said. "He took a chance on us."
In a brief interview with The Times, Kapil denied that he operated an illegal boarding home.
"It's just a house," he said.
He said he does not know the people who were killed and that they did not rent rooms from him.
Tina De Los Santos, who lives two houses away, said she noticed more people living in the home this summer.
"They were up at all hours of the night," De Los Santos said. "I'd notice it when the baby woke up and I came to the living room to watch TV.... Around that time my sister started noticing that the gas in her car was missing. She thought people were stealing it."
Other neighbors said they didn't suspect anything unusual.
"I never noticed anything out of the ordinary," said Emma Garcia, 61, who lives behind the property.
Councilman Mitchell Englander said he has been pushing for an ordinance that would regulate so-called community care homes. That idea immediately sparked a backlash from business groups, anti-poverty advocates and groups that serve people struggling to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. They showed up at packed public hearings to complain that families struggling to weather a brutal recession -- some of whom had already lost their own homes -- would be forced onto the streets if the measure passed. They also warned that the city was on the verge of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"Something has to be done," Englander said. "Four people were innocently gunned down.... It directly relates to the fact that these folks are the most vulnerable in society and living in these conditions, being put together with no oversight, no supervision at all, no treatment program, and living sort of in the shadows but in plain view."
-- Adolfo Flores in Northridge and Kate Mather in Los Angeles
Photo: Scott Sauers, 24, is a resident of the home where four people were killed over the weekend. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times