“But what if they use that money to buy drugs or alcohol? What if they spend it on something that does nothing to improve their situation? “
As for the drugs, unless you give them $20 or $30 that handful of change you give them will not be enough for the person to buy drugs.
As for alcohol, everybody needs a vice when they are homeless. And take it from me, as somebody who has been homeless for several years, most people are buying things they need such as food or deodorant, toothpaste, and what-nots.
People stereotype the homeless as being drunks. Why is this? Because of the media. The media portrays a person who has a dependency problem (alcoholism) as a stereotypical homeless person.
You have more of a chance of a stray dog following you after you’ve given them food than a homeless person following you after giving them money. The problem with people who write about homelessness—not you, I’m generalising—who have never been homeless is they don’t know what it’s like to live on the streets.
If you feel good helping somebody then this is better than nobody feeling good; if you feel good and the person you help feels good, what’s the problem.
As for progress, it’s going to take a lot more than pocket change to get a person off the streets. When I was homeless, it took more than pocket change to help me get back on my feet.
This is just my two-cents.