Get a bunch of gift cards from a fast food place that can be found just about anywhere. There doesn't have to be much on the cards: just a few bucks on each card, or whatever will buy a basic meal at the place. When you see a homeless person, give them a card. It's not hard, and you don't have to worry about how the money will be spent.
This is what my family has been doing for the past few years, after narrowly escaping being scammed to the tune of about $800 by professional scammers posing as a destitute family broken down on the side of the road. Back when he was still working in the music business and making quite a bit of money, my father would set aside some money each year to do one big charitable act for some local person or people. One year he bought plane tickets for a woman and her husband to attend her father's funeral back East, for instance.
Not only did we almost get scammed one subsequent year, but since my father no longer works in that industry, the amount of money that is available to allocate to charity is much more modest. So now for the past half-decade or so its been a small number of pre-paid Denny's cards good for the equivalent of one meal, passed out around the local mission in the town next to his. I think this is a good way to go, if you are concerned about the truthfulness of a beggar or ultimate end of your donation. Last time I checked, you couldn't buy drugs, hard liquor, or strippers at Denny's.
For me, it is difficult because the area I live in has a lot of homeless people. Like to the point where if you go out after dark to throw out some trash in the dumpster next to this apartment complex, you're likely to interrupt homeless people searching through that same dumpster for recycleables and/or food. It's really discouraging. So I always try to give, even though I do not have much myself. It has happened many times that I will be out and about and someone will ask me for change not five minutes after the last person, just a little ways further down the street, asked for some, and I'll have to explain that I've already given what I have for the day. Usually people are okay with that. I have never had any bad incidents here, unlike some other cities I have lived in (unless you count the time when the guy wanted to thumb wrestle for a quarter; just take the quarter, you weirdo), but that is because I have learned from past experience to trust my instincts regarding when a situation feels unsafe. Hence I never let the person see me open my wallet (I keep change loose in my pocket), never give at night or any other time where something could happen due to those kinds of circumstances (e.g., if me and the homeless guy are the only people on the street at that time...nope!), and never give when it's someone plus one or more of their friends (I don't need four people crowded around me so that one guy can get change; if he wants to share it with the rest of you, fine, but back off...I'm not in the mood to potentially get robbed). This is better than to judge individual motivations, because I figure someone who truly just wants help will not purposefully make you feel uncomfortable like that, and will understand if you do feel uncomfortable and not harass or pressure you. It's kind of odd how much better it is here, where there is so much more need, than it was in the last place I lived, which was wealthier and where most of the "beggars" if you could call them that were teenagers or trust-fund babies. When I lived in Oregon, I can remember exiting a pizza place late at night with a friend of mine after long hours of studying and being accosted by a young man who was definitely not older than us who demanded, did not ask, "Hey, give me $5". And when we quite reasonably said no, he tried to get into the car as my friend started it up to drive us away from the situation. What the heck...?!
So there are definitely scumbags and scammers out there, but I still try not to judge anybody. There is a man here in ABQ who resells the local free weeklies for whatever donation you'll give him. I can appreciate that, so I'll try to give to him if I see him, even though I have no use for the papers themselves. Gotta let a man have his dignity, you know. Homeless people are people
who are homeless, not some different species. I could be homeless, or you could be homeless, or any of us could be homeless. I don't want to be like the young acolytes in the time of St. Bishoy who would not carry the old man who appeared before them, because they were worried that he would slow them on their journey to meet the Lord Christ in the desert (as he had appeared to their master, St. Bishoy, many times). But St. Bishoy stopped to carry the old man, and in doing so it was revealed to him that the old man was
Christ appearing before all. The acolytes just hadn't taken the time to help Him. It makes me wonder how many Christs I pass by in a day.