Homes For The Homeless


Evening News - London, U.K. - 25 September 1888

On Thursday last there sailed in the good ship Parisian, bound from Liverpool to Montreal, ninety girls who had been rescued from absolute destitution, or worse, through the instrumentality of that most indefatigable and practical of Christian philanthropists, Dr. T.J. Barnardo, F.R.O.S.E. The ages of these girls varied from six to 19 years. Some were going out to excellent situations in different parts of Canada, others were on their way to childless homes in which they were to be adopted, all were comfortably and safely provided for.

A representative of The Evening News, who called upon Dr. Barnardo a few days since, says:

I found the director and founder of these splendid homes for destitute children seated in his private office at the central home in Stepney-causeway. In the outer vestibule or waiting-room were a number of ragged, sad-eyed lads waiting for admission to what must seem to them a veritable Paradise after the angry, cruel buffetings of the pitiless streets of London. The look of anxious expectation on those haggard faces was a sight that will linger in my memory for many days to come.

Passing through a large outer office where some fifteen or twenty clerks were busily at work, I was conducted to the doctor's particular sanctum from which he directs and controls the numerous institutions which he has brought into being for the benefit of the homeless waifs in the metropolis and elsewhere. That room is the Downing-street of the London gutters.

Dr. Barnardo's personality is too well known to call for description at my hands , so I will content myself with merely saying that he is an ideal London physician in appearance and manners. Surrounded by a huge mass of correspondence, including a batch of reports that had just arrived from his agents in Canada, he was just in that condition of hard work which he seems to like better than anything else. But he is always ready for a chat about the humane mission which has grown to such immense proportions under his fostering care.

"When did I begin this work first of all? Well, just twenty-two years ago," said the doctor. "I was a medical student at the London Hospital at the time, and my attention was called to the state of homeless children by the condition in which I found an unfortunate street-boy in a ragged school in East London in the winter of 1866. That was the beginning , and you see what it has grown to. We have now 34 distinctly separate institutions connected with our work in various parts of the United Kingdom and the Colonies."

"And these are all directly under your control, Dr. Barnardo?"

"Yes, I exercise supervision over the whole of them. Here in London we have this Home for Working and Destitute Lads, the Leopold House Orphan Home for Little Boys, a Labour House for Destitute Youths, the Union Jack Shoeblack Brigade and Home, a Young Workman's Hotel, a Servants' Free Registry and Home, the Rescue Home for Young Girls in Social Danger, Her Majesty's Infirmary for Sick Children, a Nursery Home for Infants, and Open-all-Night Shelter for Homeless Boys and Girls, and the Children's Fold for Little Cripples. Then we have a Nursery Home for Very Little Boys, at Teighmore, Jersey; a Village Home for Orphan and Destitute Girls at Ilford, Essex; a 'Babies' Castle at Hawkhurst, Kent; a Convalescent Seaside Home at Felixstowe; a Farm School at Bromyard, Worcestershire; an Emigration Depot and Distributing Homes at Toronto and Petersborough, Canada; and an Industrial Farm near Shell River, Manitoba, N.W.T. That is a pretty long list, is it not?" said Dr. Barnardo, with a smile.

"It certainly seems to cover all the ground occupied by the waifs and strays of our great cities; for I understand that your operations are not confined to London."

"Not at all. We get children from all parts of the United Kingdom. I think I may say that every city and town of importance has been represented in our Homes at some time or other. Without the least approach to boastfulness, I hope, we claim that, in the fundamental principles upon which they are conducted, our Homes are without a rival.

" You will, perhaps, better understand my meaning," continued the founder, "when I say that boys and girls are admitted from all parts of the kingdom, irrespective of age or creed, and, what is even more important, irrespective of physical defects; so that a child maimed in limb, or suffering from some grave deformity, or even loathsome disease, which would shut every other door in his or her face, is, if destitute, eligible at once for these 'Homes.' Many others, little children who are quite blind, or who are deaf mute, and yet others who have all their lives been hopeless cripples, are admitted without hesitation, if only they are really destitute.

"Admission to the destitute is immediate and without the payment or promise of a money gift, without the influence or intervention of patronage, and without voting or any other process of a similar kind. Destitution, homelessness, or, in the case of girls, grave moral peril, constitutes the sole condition of eligibility, and such cases are admissible at once.

"The industrial training of all young inmates is looked upon as a matter of the very first importance, every boy and girl, in addition to the rudiments of a plain general education, being taught a useful trade or fitted for domestic service.

"And what number of children have you under your care in the various institutions at present, Dr. Barnardo?"

"Nearly 3,000 children, who are orphans or absolutely destitute. Since I commenced the work over 11,500 boys and girls have already, through the agency of these homes, been removed from the life of the streets, from the perils of orphanhood, or from positions of the gravest danger- often from the custody of criminals or immoral people. These have all been educated, taught trades, or fitted for domestic service, and brought, during their stay in the 'Homes' under the kindly and beneficial influences of genuine Christian instruction and example. Of the large number thus carefully equipped for their life-work, 3,424 have already been placed out in the Colonies, no fewer than 506 of these having gone out during 1888 to Canada."

"You must have received liberal support from the public to enable you to carry on these gigantic operations."

"Well," laughed the doctor, "I will give you the figures, and then you will be able to judge for yourself as to the noble manner in which our efforts have been backed up by our sympathizers all over the world. My first report was issued on July 16, 1868, and the donations up to that date amounted to £214 15s. For the year ending March 31 last they reached a total of £98,531 2s. 7d. That is a healthy rate of progress, is it not? During the 22 years that the movement has been established the enormous total of £704, 464 5s. has been contributed to keep it going. And yet, so vast is the sum of juvenile misery and destitution in this metropolis alone, that if our income were doubled for the current year we could find use for every penny of it."

After hearing many deeply interesting particulars of this noble work (which, by the way, is absolutely undenominational) that the space at my disposal will not allow me to particularise, I was shown over that part of the wide reaching institutions which lies in Stepney-causeway. It was a sight that my readers should view for themselves on the very first opportunity they can seize.

The dormitories are the perfection of comfort, cleanliness, and neatness. Ach room will accommodate about eighty boys, and every dormitory has its separate matron , who is responsible for its good order. The huge dining room is a bright, airy apartment, lined throughout with glazed tiles. The kitchens include a large bakery, where some 600 loaves of bread are baked daily and distributed among the various branch institutions in London. There are extensive bath-rooms and a splendid swimming-bath, which contains 38,000 gallons of water. In the different workshops the lads are taught carpentry, engineering, brush-making, shoe-making, and tailoring , whilst others are trained in the kitchens as cooks and bakers.

There are two large school-rooms under the charge of certificated masters and subject to the regular Government inspection. Dr. Barnardo's system of education is an admirable one, and its adoption in other institutions would be of immense practical benefit to the masses of London. Half the day the lads are under the tuition of the schoolmasters and the other half they spend in learning some useful trade.

This is situated at Nos. 622, 624, and 626, Commercial-road East, and a brisk, happy, business-like air it has under the competent superintendence of Mr. John Appleton. About two hundred youths are generally engaged here, their ages running from seventeen to twenty-two years, and their occupations consisting of wood-cutting, packing-case making, and the manufacture of aerated waters and temperance drinks of every description. This Labour House is worked on commercial principles, and the packing-case department is patronised by some of the largest manufacturing firms in London, whilst the aerated waters are supplied to many of the principle hotels. After a probation of nine or ten months here, the youths, who show that they are not afraid of honest hard work, are shipped off to Canada, there to win for themselves a healthy independence, and a comfortable home far from the contaminating influences of their early unhappy lives.