London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

View report page

London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

This page requires JavaScript

Report of the County Medical Officer—General.
In the last report on homeless persons attention was directed to the reduction in the numbers
of the three classes of persons referred to in this last table. This reduction in numbers has been maintained
in the present year, and, as will be observed, it is entirely due to the smaller number of homeless
persons; whereas in the years antecedent to 1911, the diminution was due mainly to a falling off in
the number of persons finding shelter in common lodging-houses and casual wards. In 1905 and later
years the area covered in enumerating homeless persons was practically the same, and it is interesting
to note that in comparing the totals for 1905 and 1912 in the above table there is a reduction of nearly
3,000 persons. If the figures for men only are compared for the two years, 1911 and 1912, it will be
seen that in the latter year there was an increase in the number in common lodging-houses of 247 (240
single men and 7 men among the couples). In casual wards there was, however, a reduction of 62
men, which gives a nett increase for common lodging-houses and casual wards together of 185 men,
and this in spite of the fact that the number of tickets for free beds in common lodging-houses distributed
this year was 80 less than in 1911. In the number classified as homeless there is, on the other hand,
a decrease of 484 men. The total diminution was therefore 299 men. It might be added that, on the
same basis of calculation, there were 1878 men less in 1911 than in 1910. With regard to women the
1912 figures show in common lodging-houses 17 more single women, and 7 women among the couples,
an increase on the 1911 figures of 24 women. In the casual wards there were 3 more women. The
number of homeless women was less by 108, the nett result, therefore, being 81 women less than last
year. Last year's figures showed a reduction of 31 women on the figures for 1910. Disregarding
children there were 299 men and 81 women, or 380 adults less in 1912 than in 1911. Concerning
children it is difficult to obtain precise information, inasmuch as the bylaws provide for two children
being counted as one adult, and it is beyond question that in the figures supplied to the Council in past
years children have been included in this way. Hence, no true comparison can be made from year
to year as regards children. It should be mentioned, however, that few children are received in the
ordinary common lodging-houses, and, of course, in such circumstances they are in the care of a parent,
but Dr. Barnardo's Homes in Whitechapel and Kensington, licensed as common lodging-houses, both
have beds for doubles, i.e., for mother and child, as is the case also in the casual wards. Even including
the two homes just mentioned, it is probable that the total number of children received in London
common lodging-houses would not exceed 50 a night, a small number when it is remembered that the
London common lodging-house population nightly exceeds 20,000 persons.
Special mention has been made in previous reports of the use made of free shelters by women.
The conditions have not materially changed during the past year. Although the number of homeless
women was less by 108 than in 1911, there is no corresponding increase in the use made of common
lodging-houses, casual wards, and free shelters. Comparatively little use is made of the sleeping accommodation
provided at Dr. Barnardo's Homes, and the Salvation Army Shelter in Hanbury-street
shows a further decline in numbers. On the other hand, Providence-row Refuge, where only destitute
women are received, continues to be filled every night, and the Field-lane Refuge has very few vacant
A feature of the enumerations of 1909 and 1910 was the system instituted by the Salvation
Army of allowing homeless men to sit and rest for some hours in certain of their shelters after receiving
a free meal of soup and bread. In 1910, as many as 1,428 men were provided for in this way by the
Salvation Army alone, and 350 men took advantage of similar facilities offered by other charitable
associations. During the winter of 1910-11 this system was considerably modified so far as the Salvation
Army was concerned, and during the past winter there has been further restriction, only one shelter
being used for this purpose, and in this there were only 42 men sitting up on the night of the 9th February
last. The Church Army last year somewhat extended its scheme in connection with the King's Tents,
but this year on the night of the census a much smaller number of men was being dealt with. The total
number of men working or resting in shelters was 220 as against 1,778 in 1910, the difference in numbers
almost exactly corresponding with the difference in the numbers of homeless persons for two years.
Cheap and free food.—There is little alteration from year to year in the amount of cheap and
free food distributed. The Euston-road Soup Kitchen, which is open from November to April, in
1910-11 supplied upwards of 214,000 meals, and on 9th February, 1912, supplied more than 1,300 meals,
comparatively few of which were paid for by the applicants. On the same day the Willow-street Mission
gave 935 free meals to men, and 20 to women. From a barrow on the Embankment provided by Mr.
Eustace Miles, some 600 persons are supplied each day in three batches, bread and cocoa being distributed
at 7 a.m., soup and bread at noon and at 6 p.m. At Medland Hall free food is provided nightly,
and between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. on the 9th-10th February more than 400 men in addition to the 340
inmates of the shelter were supplied with 8 ounces of bread and margarine. The Field-lane Refuge
feeds about 100 families each day, and every Sunday about 400 men are supplied with bread and cocoa.
The Ham-yard Hospice supplies individuals and families with cheap or free food all the year round;
during the month of January 7, 367 meals were provided in this way, mainly to families. There is said
to be some reduction in the number of individuals applying for food, but an increase in the number
of families. Daily Graphic coupons are available at Salvation Army and other institutions throughout
London, and some thousands are given away every week. At an institution in Settles-street, Stepney,
men are able to wash, shave, and wash their clothes, and about 70 or 80 men use the house daily. They
are also supplied with a meal once a week. Another institution in Stepney on the 9th February provided
196 men with tea and a scone, and during the week ended the 10th February, 468 men were supplied
at this institution in this way.