I have lived in Brooklyn for over a year now. Mass transit isn’t as a big a mystery as it first was. Platforms where the train is on both sides still make my heart beat faster because finding something to lean against is tricky. Ordering coffee – black, no sweetener, leave room works in most establishments. Then I fix it myself. Sometimes I add half and half, other times I leave it black. What a medium is called does take a quick glance at their menu. However, the one thing that I still don’t have a handle on, the one question I can’t seem to get an answer to is how to navigate the homeless?

My apologies if that sounded cold. But I really want to know what is the proper or right thing to do? Is the person sitting on the street a different etiquette than the person begging on the train? Is the male veteran different than the young woman? What about the person with the dog? In conversation with friends and family, I have heard don’t give to anyone, carry gift cards, carry granola bars.

A few months ago I decided I had to come up with my own strategy. So this is my current plan – I go with my gut and a couple of my own guidelines. Since the MTA says not to give to people begging on the train, I don’t. But if you are a singer, musician or dancer and you entertained me for part of my ride, yes, I give you some cash. I don’t carry gift cards because that seems rather presumptuous of me. I do carry cash and try to remember to stick a couple of five dollar bills in my coat pocket so I don’t have to open my purse. But I still feel bad and overwhelmed by the number of people who are on the street. So I am asking the same question again, how do I navigate the homeless? What am I as a white, female living in NYC suppose to do?