The answers in this thread are specific to countries where soup kitchens, free shelters and easy access to people/organizations who help is available, aren't they? In other places, there a large number of really poor people who don't have access to such facilities. Many, especially the disabled/old can't find work, or support their family.
For example, in such places, it's fairly common to see people knock your window and beg for money while waiting in traffic, or when walking out of shops, etc.
Yes, I suppose that's the case. I've never lived in a place that didn't have shelters or soup kitchens available for the truly needy, so there's really no need to be begging for food when there are people passing it out willingly. I figure those begging for money in those communities want it for something other than food and shelter (i.e., drugs, alcohol) and it's not going to help them at all to give that to them.
I think if I were in a place where there were no shelters/soup kitchens, I'd be more inclined to help. But, I still wouldn't just give them money. I'd rather buy them a meal, or provide some food for them to make a meal. I'd do the same if I had a neighbor who was cash-strapped and struggling to feed the family. I wouldn't hand them money to misspend (I think most people who wind up struggling initially get there by misspending what they have, unless they've wound up unemployable due to some long-term illness that's eating away at their savings with medical bills, etc.), I'd invite them over for dinner, make sure the kids have milk and cereal for breakfast, and generally make sure they aren't going to starve while getting on their feet.