Photo by Froge on Flickr
I have always admired John Bird and The Big Issue which he started 18 years ago to help homeless people earn a little money and so get off the streets. It's been a brilliant success and has helped countless homeless people. At the same time it gives them - instead of begging - a public face that encourages people to treat them as human beings worthy of help.
Now through Centrepoint one can also sponsor a room for only £12 a month in which a homeless person can live and receive support - and even hold down a job (which usually requires an address) while they get back on their feet. The donor has the added satisfaction of getting regular e-mails about the person living in the sponsored room and can take a 'virtual' tour of it on the internet.
Charities like Centrepoint (which manages The Big Issue) and Fine Cell, which helps prisoners in jail by giving them needlework cushions and embroidories to make and sell, are a great advance on simple tin-rattling charities, where you rarely have much feel for what your money is doing.