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Begging outside the dollar store

I’m living in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood for over a year now. The neighbourhood has several personalities, but the one I am going to talk about today is the hood’s begging scene. If I imagine asking people their opinion of the number of beggars in Parkdale, I’d probably get these responses:

An Economist would say: “The number of beggars-per capita is very high.”
A Mathematician would say: “The ratio of number of people to number of beggars is very low.”
An Engineer would say: “The concentration of beggars per square meter is very high.”
A Sociologist would say: “What you are measuring is actually a sign of social degradation and deprivation – how insensitive!”
A MBA (i.e. someone like me) would say: “These people are wasting their time here.”

You heard me right, I may not know the social theories regarding the cause of begging – whatever they are, they don’t matter. But one thing is clear – Parkdale is not the place to beg. Let me explain why.

The dollar store in my neighborhood, with one of the begging spots. Image courtesy Google maps street view.

See that dollar store? A dollar store is a sign that screams two things:
#1. “We sell crappy Made-in-China goods for a dollar”
#2. “This neighborhood is full of people who will buy that crap”
The dollar store is not the only sign – there are several thrift stores, discount stores, pawn shops, junk stores, cheap restaurants etc. It’s a great place to get deals and bargains. The neighborhood is full of rental apartment buildings (perceived by certain bloggers as being owned by slumlords), large number of people living on social welfare, community centers, etc. To summarize, Parkdale is a place filled with poor people* and low income families.

This place should ideally be a nightmare for a professional beggar – right?

But for some reason, it seems that Parkdale is also the home to all beggars in Toronto. Clearly, these guys haven’t done any market research, market survey, target segmentation, and their implementation shows a complete lack of strategy.

Some picture from some forwarded email. This is no longer funny

Therefore, as an almost-MBA dude, and since I find it prudent to dispense advice even if people won’t take it, I have decided to share my insights with anyone who asks me for change the next time. The beggars in Parkdale, and there are a lot of them, must go somewhere else. Not for the sake of the residents, not for the sake of the neighborhood, but for their own good – if you wan’t to beg, atleast do it right! For starters, I propose they go to Bay street, which is just 20 minutes away in downtown Toronto (a place full of tall glass buildings, people wearing dark suits, perfume and makeup …and no beggars!)

* Poor neighborhoods also attract artists, hippies, new immigrants, drug addicts, environment types, entrepreneurial types, and cockroach-pesticide sellers.
PS: I’m sure you can tell that I hate to see able bodied men asking for money.
Published inSocial Commentary


  1. Steph Steph

    My friends and I were just talking about this yesterday! I’ve live in Parkdale and work on Bay. My Parkdale friends were surprised when I told them my bike was stolen from work this week. I told them the smart beggars are on Bay. When I walk by Dollarama in Parkdale and see a young adult begging, I also wonder, “What are they thinking?” Someone going in to buy discounted tuna will give them lots of cash?

    • LOLOL, exactly!! Dollarama is the worst possible place to ask for money…! btw, sorry to hear about your bike (my bike was stolen from Parkdale few months back).

      Welcome to my blog Steph, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Rob Rob

    Very interesting! I live just a bit westward, almost bordering parkdale and the scene changes as soon as I enter it. something charming about the place I mist say! Maybe poor people give them more? Or they are hanging there just so that they could use the community centers whenever they feel like!

    • Welcome to my blog Rob, and thanks for the comment. 🙂 I’m guessing you must be on Roncy – I love that area and the difference is quite visible I agree. You have a good point there about community centers. Most beggars are stoned, high or drunk so I guess they are not in their smartest state…

  3. Imagine telling beggars in India where to go and beg

    • hehehe… Lakshmi, I was just joking… there’s no way I’d do that even here. 🙂

  4. Well, the thing is, sometimes, the beggars don’t think. They just go with the flow. If there are other beggars in the area, then chances are they will also join in. Of course, they wouldn’t go to the places where they are easily spotted, since they might be worried that they will be kicked out of the place. What they want is a place that they can easily blend in. Whether this is economically a good move or not is out of the question.

    • That makes sense. If they could think that much, they won’t be begging. 🙂

  5. Zhu Zhu

    This is a really funny observation!

    In Ottawa, most panhandlers gather around Bank street (and yes, there is a dollar store) and Rideau. These are two central places, and the Mission is not far so I guess it explains everything.

    The nice suburbs where richer people live are too far anyway. Wait a minute… this may be why most ask for a bus ticket, rather than for a dollar? 😆

    • Yes yes I know! They ask for a bus ticket, and 25 cents is unacceptable! Gosh! 🙂 Downtown is expensive place to do business …LOL

  6. well
    at least indian beggars are a lot smarter!
    in mumbai beggars are a well organised lot
    and have areas demarcated for them according to hierachy.

    • Yeah its a system in itself and a very sad one – the manner in which the supply of beggars is maintained.

  7. …Hey here is idea, why don’t you offer free course, may be they will get inspired and get some schooling after all. Lol, you are good, I love the one the engineer would say, you got it all right.

    You know when I was my first year at university, I was downtown, never seen beggars before, so I gave one some money, that was big mistake, because I just could see a line forming behind the first guy, lol. My friend saved me, and he warned me too do not make eye contact, lol, I didn’t listen.

    Priyank, you are full of good stuff! Nice to be back, been away a bit working on some stuff.

    Anna 🙂

    • LOL Anna! That’s funny but maybe we should start a ‘beggar training institute’ and offer diplomas. 🙂 You know, initially it is very difficult to not feel sympathy, but after a while we all get desensitised. There used to be a girl who begged outside the subway station and I used to see her every day. But one day she disappeared and I wonder what happened to her. I still don’t know, but every time I go outside the station, I check to see if she’s still there.

  8. I know what you mean Priyank. When I used to go to university, there was a homeless guy who every day was hitting a wall of the medical building, kicking and some head buds. It looked funny, sadly saying we laughed, but you know one day they found him dead under his pile of blankets. And now I feel bad about all my life… I now I know better.

    May be you should just think she found a better place, Priyank.

    Anna 🙂

    • I certainly hope she did, and sorry to hear about that guy! I guess I have been in your shoes too. 🙂

  9. oana oana

    Well, arguable…Maybe they’re not looking just for material, but emotional support as well. I guess you don’t feel such an outcast when you’re surrounded by almost-like-you-type of people. And, besides, on Bay Street, they will be totally harassed by the private sector security people with the generous help of the wonderful State, of course.

    • Great rationale, the same can probably be used to explain the formation of ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown.

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