Homeless Ones Aided by Kind Policemen 1901

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The policemen of the Adams Street station were in a great state of indignation today over the alleged action of the management of the Home for Friendless Women on Concord street, concerning the treatment of Mrs. Mary Brennan and her four children, Mamie, aged 11 years; Alice, aged 9 years; John aged 7 years, and Mary, aged 1 month.

The indignation of the policemen began when, they say, the people at the home declined at a late hour last night, when it was raining terribly, and when the children were all crying piteously, to give shelter to the woman and her four hungry and homeless babies. The police could not bear to lock the members of the family up in a cell, and there are no accommodations for lodgers in the police stations nowadays.

Somebody had suggested the Home for Friendless Women, to Sergeant McCarthy, and, when he thought of it, he at once determined that that was the place for Mary and her little ones. There was, however, no room for Mrs. Brennan and the other four, until Sergeant McCarthy, with a lively sense of the obligations of the season, and a knowledge of the fact that the home was in a certain sense a public institution, insisted that some provision should be made for the night at least in the Concord street shelter.

But only one night's shelter was afforded and this morning, soon after 8 o'clock. Policeman John Murphy of the Adams street station was sent after them. He found that they had been housed for the night in what seemed to him to be a cellar of the home. It was not a cellar, for the house is one of the English basement variety and the room where the woman and her babies were kept was in the rear of this. There are cots there, but there is no carpet and nothing very much to attract the aesthetic. Murphy was probably thinking of his cozy little home when he saw the shelter of the homeless family, for he burst out with indignation when he saw where the little ones had been sheltered.

"Haven't you some place better for these people than a cellar?" he asked of the woman who seemed to be in charge.

"We have better accommodations," was the reply, according to his report, "but not for such people as these."

Murphy took the four children and their mother to the Adams street station at once, and there was some talk of sending the children to some institution. There never was such a wailing in the station as there was at the time this suggestion was made. The mother burst out crying and the children gathered around her and lifted up their shrill little voices in bitter and prolonged sobs. Sergeant Kennedy, who did not, until that moment, know how they came there, was at a loss to understand all about the fuss and strove as best he could to quiet the little family.

When some semblance of quiet was restored he found more about the woman. He learned that in the driving rain, at 8 o'clock last night, she had applied at the police station for shelter. She was soaked to the skin, and so was her baby. The little ones, who could walk, had leaky shoes, each pair many sizes too big for the wearer, and sloppy as sleeves. As the little toes squeezed out the water from the dozen rents in each shoe there were fountain like spits of rain over the station floor. The children were not only wet, but cold and hungry. Mrs. Brennan told her story of suffering, which was brief. She had lost her husband from pulmonary consumption six months ago and since then had been unable to find work. Yesterday afternoon she had been dispossessed and tramped from her old rooms in Cherry street, Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to see two of her sisters who are out at service in this borough. She had seen them. They had promised to get rooms for her, but said that they could do nothing for her until today. Then, as she did not want to queer her sisters with their employers, she trudged off with her children and wandered and wandered until the friendly green light of the station invited her to tell her troubles to the police.

She was in a more cheerful mood in the sunlight today, after the children's tears had been dried and after the policemen at the station had chipped in all their small change to help her. There were but ten men in the station when she came there this morning and they managed to raise $8.40 for her. They turned over this money, more than the woman had seen since she had scraped up enough six months ago to bury her husband decently, and turned it over to her. She bravely said that she did not want her babies sent to any institution, but that she would keep them with her as long as she could give them a crust.

"I've a good, stout pair of hands," she said, "and if my sisters will do as they promised and help me to pay the first month's rent I'll be all right. I can work and while I am grateful to you gentlemen for this assistance I will pay it back to you. Come, Mary and Alice and Johnnie, let us go away and try to get some place where we can have a home."

The little parade left the station and the woman made at once for a second hand shoe shop in the immediate neighborhood, where she laid out a part of the $8.40 in shoes for the little ones. Then she started off again to see her sisters. She would not tell the police who her sisters were, or where they were employed with the fear that maybe there might be some disgrace and that they might lose their places.

Miss Belton, the superintendent in charge at the house of the Society for the Aid of Friendless Women and children, at 20 Concord street, when seen this afternoon and asked concerning the case, said:

"The woman and her children were brought here by a policeman on Christmas Eve. He said she had applied for lodging at the police station and he had thought it better to bring her to us. We took her in without hesitation, gave her and the children beds in the extension, where all of the inmates sleep and kept them until this morning.

"So far as our having put the woman and her children in the cellar to sleep, that's all nonsense," said Mrs. Belton indignantly.

"To think that the policeman should say that. It's not true and he knows it.

"As for our keeping Mrs. Brennan and her children here longer, why, all I can say is that we are not allowed to keep women or children here unless they have been regularly committed to our care.

"I gave the woman a card to Mr. Short, of the Charities Department, and advised her to go to him and have her three children sent to some institution for a few months, telling her she could go to the Sheltering Arms with her baby, and work for small wages until she was strong enough to support her family.

"The woman had some money when she was here. Coming here in the car from the police station a lady gave her a bill the policeman told me. The stories the woman told me while she was here differed materially. She claimed her husband had been dead a year or more and then declared he died only six months ago."


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Homeless Ones Aided by Kind Policemen 1901
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 Brooklyn Daily Eagle December 27, 1901
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