|Toronto residents Sharon Brewster and her husband Shane Campbell, who both need scooters to get around, were robbed the other night. Campbell who suffers from MS had his scooter stolen from an alleyway leading to their apartment on Danforth Ave. The thieves could only steal the battery from his wife's scooter. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Shane Campbell sits in a squalid illegal apartment above a Danforth Ave. store, a virtual prisoner inside these decrepid four walls.
Heartless thieves have made sure of that.
The 40-year-old suffers from primary progressive MS. Diagnosed three years ago, he survives on disability payments and his condition has deteriorated so much that he can only manage to walk a few steps before having to sit down. His wife Sharon Brewster, is also 40 and on disability: run over by a car more than a decade ago, her knees are shot and she can’t go too far without tiring.
Their saving grace has been their motorized power scooters, the ones they had nowhere else to park but in the narrow hallway at the bottom of their stairs that lead directly — and openly — out to the street.
There used to be a door there but it broke off a long time ago and despite repeated requests, Campbell said the landlord failed to fix it. And so thieves simply walked in Sunday night and stole his scooter as well as the $800 batteries that powered his wife’s.
“It’s a real emergency. I can’t walk. I have very limited mobility and that’s my lifeline,” Campbell explains, desperation in his eyes. “It’s like they stole my legs, you know?”
He purchased his black $3,800 Fortress 1700 scooter two years ago with the help of the health ministry’s assistive devices program. He can only reapply for funding once every five years. In the meantime, he’s out of luck. The rules are right there in the manual: The program does not provide funding to replace devices that are lost or stolen within the designated funding period. Clients should refer to the device warranty and consider buying insurance to cover these situations.”
“I understand why,” he admits. “Otherwise people would just pretend it got stolen and sell it.”
But they didn’t get insurance. Because their apartment is illegal — a virtual firetrap with the scooters also blocking their sole exit — they couldn’t get house coverage when they moved in six months ago. So they have no money to replace his wheels or the batteries to power up hers.
The police were sympathetic but didn’t offer up a lot of hope. “They said there have been a lot of scooter thefts in the area. I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Campbell says.
In the meantime, he has been left helpless.
He has doctor appointments that he can no longer attend. He has a daily visit to a methadone clinic to help with his pain — but now has no way of get there. On this afternoon, he’ll be able to hitch a ride with Sun photographer Jack Boland, but what will he do tomorrow?
Campbell has ventured outside and leans against the wall, a furniture shop on one side, a clothing store on the other. He’s well-known in the neighbourhood and when people stop to chat, he asks them to be on the lookout for his stolen scooter.
“The word is out,” says his wife. “The scooter community would know.” Already one friend has told them that someone approached her offering a scooter for sale. Another has heard drug addicts took it for some easy cash.
Campbell is asked what he would like to tell the thieves who have left him stranded. His answer is rather surprising.
“I forgive them,” he says. “They don’t realize they took my scooter, but they took my ability to go anywhere.
“They just really screwed me up. They stole my life and I’m trapped in this house and I can’t go out,” he adds. “It’s like they put me in jail.”