Serious question for discussion here. I recently have changed job locations and now work at an office in a major metropolitan area.
As part of my new morning commute, I take a bus from a park and ride lot which drops me off a few blocks from my office. The most convenient way to get from the bus to my office is to cut catty-corner through an urban park.
The park (the size of a "normal" city block) is a nice little oasis with paths, lots of trees, and a number of park benches.
Therein lies my issue.
On a normal morning, I will be approached by 5-10 people asking for handouts. Some of the these people are obviously homeless (they are sitting/standing next to carts filled with their belongings), while others are dropped off at the park by vans (I've seen the vans drop them off with plates from a neighboring state).
Traditionally, I stare strait ahead and ignore all of them. Some of them ask for the money in a certain way, or they have a physical handicap, or they claim to be a veteran, that I wish to give to them, but doing so I feel as though I would be mobbed by the others. I'm still trying to figure out what the deal is with the folks being dropped off by the van, but I don't feel comfortable giving money to them.
On top of this is the feeling that money given to a homeless person might go to the purchase of drugs or alcohol. I'm not trying to pre-judge the people, but common sense tells me that they probably need something other than drugs or alcohol.
I was thinking that one way to deal with this was to go to the local homeless shelter and donate money to them. That way if I'm asked for money, I can tell them that I've given money to the local shelter so that they can get a good meal and get warm.
The other issue I'm struggling with is that I don't feel comfortable ignoring them. I saw a show some time ago with a community organizer where they were discussing homeless. Someone asked him the question if he gave money to the homeless. He answered no, but said that he did take a few moments to talk to them. I guess part of my struggle is that I don't have a conversation with the hundreds (thousands?) of other people that I pass, so am I actually treating them any different.
I'd like to get suggestions from the KOS community how they deal with this issue.