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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.

Originally posted to SnowItch on Mon Oct 19, 2009 at 06:38 AM PDT.

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