Occasionally, too, lads are brought here by kind folk, who find them starving. They are taken in, kept for a while, taught and fed, and when their characters are re-established—for many of them have none left—put out into the world. Some of them, indeed, work daily at various employments in London, and pay 5s. a week for their board and lodging at the Home. A good proportion of these lads also are sent to the collieries in Wales, where, after a few years, they earn good wages.
In these collieries a man and a boy generally work together. A while ago such a man applied to the Army for a boy, and the applicant, proving respectable, the boy was sent, and turned out extremely well. In due course he became a collier himself, and, in his turn, sent for a boy. So the thing spread, till up to the present time the Army has supplied fifty or sixty lads to colliers in South Wales, all of whom seem to be satisfactory and prosperous.
As the Manager explained, it is not difficult to place out a lad as soon as his character can be more or less guaranteed. The difficulty comes with a man who is middle-aged or old. He added that this Home does not in any sense compete with those of Dr. Barnardo; in fact, in certain ways they work hand in hand. The Barnardo Homes will not receive lads who are over sixteen, whereas the Army takes them up to eighteen. So it comes about that Barnardo’s sometimes send on cases which are over their age limit to Sturge House.
I saw the boys at their dinner, and although many of them had a bad record, certainly they looked very respectable, and likely to make good and useful men. The experience of the Army is that most of them are quite capable of reformation, and that, when once their hearts have been changed, they seldom fall back into the ways of dishonesty.
This Home, like all those managed by the Salvation Army, is spotlessly clean, and the dormitories are very pleasant rooms. Also, there is a garden, and in it I saw a number of pots of flowers, which had just been sent as a present by a boy whom the Army helped three years ago, and who is now, I understand, a gardener.
Sturge House struck me as a most useful Institution; and as there is about it none of the depressing air of the adult Shelters, my visit here was a pleasant change. The reclamation or the helping of a lad is a very different business from that of restoring the adult or the old man to a station in life which he seems to have lost for ever.
This Bureau is established in the Social Headquarters at Whitechapel, a large building acquired as long ago as 1878. Here is to be seen the room in which General Booth used to hold some of his first prayer meetings, and a little chamber where he took counsel with those Officers who were the fathers of the Army. Also there is a place where he could sit unseen and listen to the preaching of his subordinates, so that he might judge of their ability.