Lodging Homeless Men 1896

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The plan for furnishing a comfortable night's lodging to men who find themselves in this city without anywhere to lay their heads, excluding those who have money enough to pay for the poorest sleeping place and those who are habitual tramps, and requiring the lodgers to do three hours work in return for their accommodations, is calculated to excite general sympathy and commendation, but it is obviously one which should be pursued with great caution.

The floating quarters that have been provided by the Commissioners of Charities have naturally proved "popular" with those who need them, and there is talk of multiplying such accommodations at considerable public expense.

It is not desirable to present special attractions to men out of work to come to this city. They are too apt to drift here without any such prospect of immediate relief, and the pauperizing effect of increasing the number could hardly be avoided. The chances of employment, small enough at best, would be diminished, and the class to be cared for at the public charge would grow faster than it could be cared for. The accessions to its ranks would be of the poorest quality, for of such mainly are those who do not find work elsewhere and who would be the slowest to find it here.

The extent to which work can be found to advantage for those who have the lodgings to pay for in that way must be limited. Those from the barge already established have been set at work shoveling snow in the near-by streets, but that occupation cannot last, and they can hardly be employed at street sweeping in competition with the regular force. Mere useless work, as a means of checking the applications, is hardly practicable or desirable, and if wood yards or stone yards for useful labor were to be established, these transient lodgers would become competitors in an overstocked market.

New York has long been a paradise for tramps at the season when roaming over the country is unpleasant, because it has been so easy to get food or pick up pennies from passers in the streets and at area gates, and also to get sent to comparative comfort on the island. The efforts of the charities organizations to check this easy-going and free-handed encouragement of the thriftless vagrant have been only partly successful.

It is not desirable to afford a paradise for the least capable of the unemployed at the expense of the public or the resident workers, however honest or unfortunate they may be. All such public philanthropic schemes are beset with risks. It is not our wish to discourage them, so far as they may be of genuine service to the needy and deserving, but there is need for warning against making them too ample and attractive. There is need of rigid safeguards against imposition and of restrictions to limit the number of applicants. The effort to avoid the public lodging places by assiduously seeking regular employment elsewhere should be stimulated as much as possible. There is danger that this system of relief for the "homeless" may do more harm than good in the long run if it is not managed with great circumspection.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Lodging Homeless Men 1896
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 New York Times Mar. 16, 1896 p.4 (1 page)
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