MyHalifaxCa – Panhandlers

Its time to deal with the problem

Panhandling’s impact on business

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The key component in that magical matrix of factors directly affecting the success or failure of any business is its location, so much so that there is a theory that says the three most important determinants of business success are location, location, and location. When selecting a new location for a business its owners look at traffic patterns, availability of parking, pedestrian counts, public transit, and area comfort factors.

Spring Garden Road and the Downtown of Halifax have all the positive factors required to make the area an exceptional shopping and entertainment center. Unfortunately, it also has gained a reputation for violent crime & harassing panhandlers. The crime issue is being tackled by a noticeable increase in police on foot patrol in the area and I have to admit that things are improving.

From a business owners perspective anything that deters his potential customers from having an enjoyable shopping experience is an issue that must be addressed. Panhandlers have a direct and indirect impact on every business, commercial property owner and organization located anywhere in the Downtown Business District and / or in the Spring Garden Road Shopping District.

Direct Cost:

All retail, food & beverage establishments and service providers who have street level exposure are faced with the cost of dealing directly with the panhandlers. These costs include but are not limited to the following:

Ø Time spent by owners and staff while cleaning up washrooms, eating areas, and streets from the left behind by the panhandlers, drug paraphernalia, alcohol bottles & other mess left in their washrooms etc.

Ø Time spent dealing with customer complaints regarding the actions of aggressive panhandlers.

Ø Time spent trying to move the panhandlers away from the establishment.

Ø Time spent dealing with having Protection of Private Property Act bans placed on panhandlers and enforcing the same.

Ø Cost of additional security required to deal with the panhandlers.

A quick survey of eight franchised coffee shops within the area found that every day the management / supervisors were forced to deal directly with panhandler issues and during the summer, as much as 15% of their staff hours were spent on the issue.

Indirect Cost:

Lost Opportunity: during my research for this report I contacted 25 of my personal friends, family, and clients all who in the past were ‘regulars’ in the shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues of the area. The demographics of the ad hock group are;

Ø Age 39 – 59, male and female, all married or in long-term relationships.

Ø Double income families with combined salaries of $150,000+ as a group their gross family income would easily exceed $4,500,000.

Ø University Graduates, at least one degree each, some with masters or PhD / MD

Ø Families consist of 2 or 3 children in junior high or high school.

Ø In the past, all have done the majority of their shopping, entertaining, and socializing in the area and 10 have lived within the area.

Ø I used to see this entire group regularly in the area until a couple of years ago.

Before revealing that I was researching this subject I asked each the same question; why haven’t I seen you downtown?

Ø 15/25 responded with almost the same comments. To summarize they were not comfortable with being constantly hassled for money by the panhandlers and the paid panhandlers.

Ø 5/25 had had unsettling confrontations with either panhandlers or the thugs that prey on the panhandlers.

Ø 5/25 had personal / family reasons that limited their trips to the area.

This group of 25 would represent roughly 5% of the total of my close associates 5 years ago. This is not a scientific statistical analysis but I think you can see the impact if you were to extrapolate the findings out to represent the total potential market.

The True Cost

As with everything, the true cost of panhandling has two sides.

As mentioned, there are staggering direct and indirect costs attributed to panhandling that impact the business community. The panhandlers themselves pay the biggest cost of panhandling unwillingly and unknowingly.

Their reliance on the easy money and unrestricted lifestyle actually cripples their ability:

Ø to function as full members of our society,

Ø to make an honest living in return for honest work,

Ø to have a home of their own,

Ø to benefit from participation in group life, medical and dental programs,

Ø to learn and grow as individuals.

The true cost is the lost lives and livelihoods of those marginalized individuals who never have a chance to live and grow to their potential.

Written by lesmuise

October 27, 2008 at 11:52 pm

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