Does one give to someone who asks for money on the street? Why shouldn't I, if having so much compared to what little the other seems to have? Wouldn't Jesus do the same?
Perhaps not. I have agree with Michael Spencer (Internet Monk) that being a Christian doesn't absolve you -- indeed, implores you -- to make thoughtful stewardship decisions. Being a Christian doesn't mean being a dope. Giving spare change might ease your conscious but perpetuates a kind of street corruption and misses those who have the greatest need in any sustained way. (The bottles and human waste didn't get in the alley by itself.) I agree with his assessment: if you care, give to an agency that works directly with homeless and at-risk persons.
I say this especially to the tourists who come to Washington, D.C.Â If you mean to do good, do it where it helps the most vulnerable.
The ones I feel the worst for are those who sell a local newspaper written by and sold by homeless persons. Since they're prohibited from panhandling while selling (or selling anything else) this corps of the most articulate, highest functioning (I'm thinking) and hardest working persons are probably making the least of anyone working the streets.
If you care, how about giving to So Others Might Eat (SOME) (Charity Navigator three star rating), or Christ House, an in-patient medical facility for homeless persons. (Charity Navigator three star rating).