Glimpses into the Abyss Part 25

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The provision for _absolute dest.i.tution_ belongs to the _State_. Only the State, or the State through the Munic.i.p.ality, can exercise sufficient authority to sift the incapable and "won't-works" from the simply "unemployed." The former should be in some State or State-subsidised inst.i.tution, unless supported by relatives. The "won't-works" require coercion. Any form of charity that impedes right State action is harmful. It has arisen because the State has shirked its duty. The public should be satisfied that every _dest.i.tute_ man and woman gets bed and board, with even-handed justice, in return for a task, if capable, or with proper care if incapable. Then Free Shelters and Free Meals would disappear.

But _provision_ of proper accommodation for those who are struggling to earn their living is another matter. Hitherto it has grown up haphazard, sanitary regulations have slowly been made, still more slowly enforced, and are often a dead letter.

If the question of the common lodging-house were simply that of enforcing on the proprietor of a certain house, by means of adequate inspection, a certain standard of cleanliness and decency, there would still be reasons why a Munic.i.p.al lodging-house or charitable Shelter would, if under strict supervision, be a better provision for the poor.

I will tabulate these.


_Interested Management._ _Disinterested Management._

Not to proprietary _interest_ to Against interest to have put down vice and drunkenness, disturbances, and therefore and to call in police. desirable to prevent vice Interest to secure greatest and drunkenness from number of lodgers. commencement.

Interest to provide _minimum_ Interest to provide that will pa.s.s muster, _e.g._, _maximum_ consistent with usually no stoving apparatus cleanliness. Usually apparatus to prevent vermin, for stoving, and and no lockers to prevent lockers for private property.


Imperfect sanitary arrangements, Sanitary arrangements considered deficient arrangements in building.

for cooking and Proper arrangements for washing. cooking and washing.

Deputy (usually chosen from Management removes at inmates) exercises little once any warden suspected control. of ill conduct.

Regulations if made, hard Regulations being made by to enforce, as _interest_ is management can be more retention of lodgers. easily enforced.

Small number makes better Larger number allows of provision not profitable. better provision.

But it is not a question _merely_ of the state of the common lodging-house. Bound up with this is the fact that around the common lodging-houses in each large town is growing up silently a great evil, a network of single "furnished rooms," which are the last refuge of evicted householders, but also the home of immorality. The insufficient provision of the common lodging-house is being silently largely supplemented by these. These evils are flagrant. Yet they cannot be _suppressed_. The homeless must have somewhere to go. The crowding of slum areas by "lodgers" is as grave an evil.

The "way out" is to _provide_ in every town, under charge of the Munic.i.p.ality, _well-regulated sanitary_ and _sufficient_ accommodation.

As a _national_ provision is required, Munic.i.p.alities of smaller towns might be encouraged by loans for building purposes on national credit, Government in return exercising care as to expense. Glasgow has shown that such enterprises

(1) Suppress the poor insufficient houses,

(2) Provide adequate return on capital,

(3) Lead to the rise of still better accommodation for working men.

A Munic.i.p.al lodging-house should be linked to remedial agencies, and a chain should exist on routes of travel.

Especially for _women_, munic.i.p.al lodging-houses are a _necessity_. With regard to the question of "bunks" _versus_ "beds," it is strange that while on the one hand for sanitary reasons the Government allows plank beds and wire mattresses, it is about to enforce _for a cla.s.s confessedly dirtier_ (see Vagrancy Report, 335) a universal bed. The idea that "inspection" can keep beds clean without stoving is futile.

Some of the vermin most troublesome to get rid of are microscopic. Also the idea that people undress to go to bed, and do not undress in a bunk, is not correct. The cla.s.s that possess only "what they stand up in"

possess no night garments. Women keep some of their garments on. Men may undress (for _protection_ from vermin). All the garments not worn all night are usually tucked into the bed for fear of thefts. I have seen women undressing similarly in a bunk. The Salvation Army keeps its shelters spotlessly clean and free from vermin. Unless cleansing of the person is compelled by law, all that can be done for the lowest cla.s.s of all is to provide some easily cleansed resting-place (see p. 30).

Something must be done to prevent the scandal of "sleeping out" in our wealthy cities.

The popularity of the Shelter shows it meets a social need. Also in connection with public inst.i.tutions, remedial action and sorting into cla.s.ses is possible, which is impossible in places provided for private profit. We should aim at getting every individual into a safe and sanitary shelter at night. How can a _dest.i.tute_ woman find 3_s_. 6_d_.

per week for bare shelter? If she pays this should not it ent.i.tle her to a place which is clean, where she can keep herself clean, and can _keep her self-respect_?

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Glimpses into the Abyss Part 25 summary

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