The panhandler story reminded me of this.
My mother grew up in the 1930s and 1940s in a small town that was bisected by a railroad, which went through the southern edge of the property. Men who had been riding the rails, or maybe sometimes hitchhiked, would sometimes knock on the door and ask for food. Grandma would make eggs, toast, and coffee, and maybe a strip or two of bacon if she had some, and offer him a cigarette if he wanted it (do keep the times in mind) but no matter how bad the weather was, she would never let them in the house, even if Grandpa or their two sons were at home. ETA: They didn’t get indoor plumbing until the 1950s.
Andy Rooney said his mother did the same thing, and like my mother, asked why no women ever came begging for food. Grandma didn’t know, and neither did his mother, but things I’ve seen on PBS shows and read elsewhere implied that it was not safe for women to do that; there were some teenage girls who rode the rails after running away from home, often for very good reasons, but those girls would travel in packs and often had brothers or their boyfriends with them. In addition, in many areas, women who fell on hard times could go back to their parents or other extended family members, whereas men were considered to be largely on their own.
Do people still do that now, or are they more likely to use shelters and soup kitchens? I will add that the town where my mother grew up is not large enough to have a homeless shelter, although some organizations may serve free meals at various times.