I was in a conference in Denver a few years back and a panhandler approached me with a whole song and dance about a baby in a car that needed medicene and he just needed a few dollars for gas because the car ran out on the highway. I pointed out the Highway Patrol would tow his car and get his child to the hospital, let's flag down a cop - he took off. The funny thing was he tried the exact same bit on me the next night! I told him to go find someone new to try that on.
I worked in downtown Washington DC for awhile and would carry a couple coupons for a McDonalds sandwich. If a pan handler/street person would approach I would get out the coupon and offer it up. If they took it that was fine. They probaby really were in need. If they refused, then they didn't need my help and I told them as much.
The McDs in Washington only let in people who buy food or have coupons for food. So the homeless who took my coupons would get to go inside for a bit, they would get a sandwich, and they could also get condiments. The condiments they could use to make soup later. So a coupon actually fed them more than once. A pastor I know told me about this and that pastor would also write the number for homeless services on a card to give them. I didn't go that far. I also carried the coupons in a certain pocket so that I would never take my eyes off the homeless person and so it would keep one hand totally free just in case.
I varied my route enough that I didn't have any regulars, but did have a few I would run into more than once. They do tend to be territorial in DC. So far Baltimore has the politest pan handlers I've encountered, but I haven't been to Nashville yet.
It seems that anywhere along the I-5 corridor, meth and it's purveyors are a problem. Grants Pass is no exception. I'm a real estate appraiser, and in my travels I encounter many of these types at traffic lights, freeway off ramps. (Phil's photos must have been taken here. ) In one of our local parks the problem has escalated to the point that the elderly out for a stroll are often approached/accosted by two or three in a group. This is usually a summertime situation, as most of them beat feet south for the warmer climes. They are aggressive, verbally abusive, and very difficult to avoid. Some local "good ol' boys" were considering an evening trip through the park with ball bats to clean 'em out. We talked them out of that. Local LEO's have tried to clean up the situation, but the beggars are like cockroaches, turn on a light they scurry away. Light goes out, they're back. Local deputies used to drive these types to the county line and point them south (Calif) with the admonition to not return. Can't do that now. Not PC you know. Sign of the times I guess.