Globally, cash is a major tool to fight extreme poverty, because the poor do not waste grants. You might worry handouts encourage idleness. But in most experiments, people worked more after they received grants.
There was that article from a while back talking about how Bill Gates and Warren Buffet got backs turned to them in China when they met with millionaires to encourage philanthropy. And this is what happens when they try.
The executive director of Rescue Mission said he was worried that people might spend the handout on drugs or alcohol. This pessimism (and paternalism) is common and understandable. But evidence from other countries suggests we should be more optimistic.
I don't know how to feel about this. It is true, but it twists my gut a little bit, that can't be how we view all homeless people.
Aren't there many reasons a person can be homeless?
I would expect that those folks working with NYC's homeless would have the best perspective on what to do with the money.
The relatively low number of homeless people (as a percent of population) in NYC vs. Uganda and Syria would likely point to differing reasons for the majority of homelessness. My guess is that the homeless in NYC are far more likely to find themselves in their current situation due to mental illness or substance abuse than Syrian or Ugandan refugees that have horrific political and economic situations in which to live.
The director of the rescue mission has first-hand experience with the homeless folks with which he works. I'd let him decide.
Maybe there's some yet-to-be-understood reason for which Bill Gates and Warren were rebuffed also. The problem could very well have been the way in which they approached the folks they did.