I believe that every step we take towards humanity, however small that step is, is a step in the right direction. Every attempt to mobilize others to take that step, every smile offered, every encouraging word, every caring touch (a hand on the shoulder, a handshake), every act of kindness, it is a step in the right direction.
If the freedom of the street dweller is assumed (the freedom to make choices and to accept the consequences negative or otherwise), then that pre-supposes my freedom also - my freedom to show compassion to her (or not), to feel sorrow for her (or not), to extend a helping hand to her (or not), to "save" her however illusory (or not), just as that individual is free to choose to accept or reject my gestures.
If you are free to judge the street dweller's merits, or to speculate about his circumstances or motives, or to form conclusions (without evidence) as to his character (for example, that he is lazy), or to put forward the exceptio probat regulam, or to hold that tough love is the requisite response, allow me the freedom also to defer analysis, to assume his good intentions, to assume his weakness in the face of his overwhelming circumstances, to figure that it is not simply a matter of his manning the f#@k up and suddenly receiving clarity of mind from some tough love approach. Allow me the freedom to care.
[youtube presentation by Ric Couchman]