Man loses everything to tow company

Vincent McCarthy points yesterday to where his van has been impounded -- along with all his...

Vincent McCarthy points yesterday to where his van has been impounded -- along with all his belongings. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

MICHELE MANDEL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET

TORONTO -- With his house repossessed last month, Vincent McCarthy was suddenly homeless with nowhere to park his cube van loaded with his personal belongings.

So the 63-year-old unemployed truck driver left his old Chevy truck on an Etobicoke street around the block from the home that now belongs to his mortgage company --- and hoped for the best.

But for McCarthy, luck has been in short supply.

On Nov. 27, after the third parking ticket, the police called Bill & Son Towing, which hauled away McCarthy's truck to their Atomic Ave. yard. And there it has sat locked up for three weeks, running up a bill to date of more than $1,700, including the $325 towing charge.

Money the destitute man does not have.

'ON COLD GROUND'

"They're charging $72 a day for it to sit on cold ground," winces McCarthy, a chatty, articulate man who says he was once a police officer during the 1970s.

"After 30 days, it will be more than $2,000. You could rent an awful nice apartment for that, couldn't you? With cable, heat and probably a heated parking spot underground. How can they possibly justify that? It's a licence to steal -- and the city gave it to them."

But the story gets worse.

He went to the Etobicoke pound and told them about his very long and sad slide into homelessness -- of how his severe case of sleep apnea eventually cost him his job as a cement truck driver and he couldn't make his mortgage payments; of how he was on the street for the first time in his life, riding the TTC just so he would have somewhere warm to sleep; of how he's living at the Salvation Army shelter in Brampton and will be declaring bankruptcy next week.

"The whole idea of these towing places is to pay it right away and get out of there, but I don't have 5 cents right now," McCarthy explains.

Maybe he was naive, but he asked for a little compassion, a little Christmas mercy. He has no cash to pay for the release of his truck. But could he just get his belongings out of the back?

There's an old fridge and stove from his house, boxes of personal items, but most importantly, a filing cabinet filled with Father's Day and Christmas cards and school artwork by his three kids when they were younger. They're all grown and living in Orillia, but these are the few momentos left of a life that was once more stable.

McCarthy says he was basically told to take a hike back to his shelter, with a heap of rudeness and arrogance to boot.

He wasn't allowed to remove anything from the truck, he says, not even a glove he had left inside. If he doesn't pay up within 60 days, the truck goes on the auction block. If they don't get enough from the sale to cover his bill, he was told Bill & Son Towing would sell his contents as well.

And a merry Christmas to you.

McCarthy figures most people would have slunk away. "But I don't go down easy," he says.

So he called his local city councillor and an outraged Rob Ford promised to help. "I just can't believe they wouldn't let him take his personal belongings," Ford complains. "It burns me up when I hear stuff like this. Give him a break, how cold-hearted can you be?

"He's in a shelter, he has nobody, he has nothing and these guys are giving him the screws."

So Ford notified us and funny how the towing company's story quickly changed when the Toronto Sun came calling yesterday.

Behind the fence sits the hapless vehicles towed on contract for Toronto Police District 2 -- a red Jeep, a fancy motorcycle and countless others -- including McCarthy's white cube van being held hostage from a man who can't pay the ransom.

WOULDN'T CHANGE

General manager Steve Steele hadn't dealt with McCarthy before but bent over backwards to be accommodating -- to a point. He wouldn't budge on their outrageous storage rate, arguing it's set by the city and can't be changed, not even out of sympathy for a homeless man.

He did agree, though, to release McCarthy's belongings. "Because of your position," Steele told him.

How kind. But his bill continues to soar. By late tonight, the homeless man will be on the hook for almost $2,000 -- and counting.

READ MANDEL EVERY SUNDAY, THURSDAY AND FRIDAY. MICHELE.MANDEL@SUNMEDIA.CA OR 416-947-2231


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