I've noticed an increasing number of panhandlers on my city's streets and have been accosted several times recently for money. I've never liked to give them anything. The few times I have, the beggar would ask for more or disparage my token offering. (Raising twins, one of whom is disabled, on a single income doesn't leave much left over for charity.) I've also heard numerous stories of unscrupulous beggars who spend the money frivolously or who are not actually in such dire straits.
All that said, I can't deny that there is a great need in this country, made even greater by the poor economy and government's austerity measures. So, I decided that for the month of November I am donating $1.88 (the cost of a Thanksgiving meal) to our local rescue mission for every beggar I see. It makes me feel like I can help them in a positive and constructive way, without simply ignoring their pleas as I wait for the light to turn green.
I'm up to eight so far and I like the idea so well, I think I'll continue it throughout the year.