There are many opinions on the question of how to respond to beggars and panhandlers, which admittedly is a difficult one. Some people feel comfortable handing out money, believing it is then up to the beggar to determine how to use it, whether to buy food or alcohol/drugs. Others give food/water instead of money, understanding that some beggars would not use the money for the uses the giver intended. What is the right thing to do? Biblically speaking, we are to help the poor. But, does our responsibility end with the giving, or should we give and make sure our gifts are used for the right purposes?
Rather than giving money or food/water, some prefer to offer transportation to a local shelter and/or provide financial support directly to the shelter. By supporting rescue missions financially, we help the poor who would otherwise be begging on the street. If the local church has a food bank, contributing to it and then directing the beggar there for help may be the best way to address the need without enabling the sin. Church food banks also provide an excellent opportunity to share the gospel with the homeless and needy.
Other ways to help include giving food or gift cards to local restaurants, handing out energy bars or other non-perishables to the people on the street corners, or if the situation allows, taking the needy person(s) to a restaurant/grocery store and buying him/her a meal. God wants us to help the poor and blesses us when we do. In the words of the psalmist David, we are told, “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes” (Psalm 41:1-2). It is indeed a worthy cause to help the poor, including the sign-holders on our street corners. Each of us must respond to these people as the Lord guides, not forgetting at the same time to offer prayers for these needy people.