Thus one girl whom I think I saw, could not be prevented from gadding on the streets, and therefore had been placed here. Another young woman was a schoolmistress who would not get out of bed and refused to work. When she came to the Home she was very insolent and bad-tempered, and would do nothing. Now, I was informed, she rises with the lark, at 6.30 indeed, and works like a Trojan. I could not help wondering whether these excellent habits would survive her departure from the Home. Another lady, who had been sentenced for thefts, was the daughter of a minister. She horrified the Officers by regretting that she had gone to jail for so little, when others who had taken and enjoyed large sums received practically the same sentence. She was reported to be doing well.
Another, also a lady, was the victim of an infatuation which caused her to possess herself of money to send to some man who had followed her about from the time she was in a boarding school. Another was a foreigner, who had been sent to an American doctor in the East to be trained as a nurse. This poor girl underwent an awful experience, and was in the care of the Salvation Army recovering from shock; but, of course, hers is a different class of case from those which I have mentioned above. Another was an English girl who had been turned out of Canada because of her bad behaviour with men. And so on.
It only remains to say that most of these people appeared to be doing well, while many of those in the humbler classes of life were being taught to earn their own living in the laundry that is attached to the Institution.
This is a place where women, most of them old, so far as my observation went, are taken in to sleep at a charge of 3_d._ a night. It used to be 2_d_. until the London County Council made the provision of sheets, etc., compulsory, when the Army was obliged to raise the payment. This Shelter, which is almost always so full that people have to be turned away, holds 261 women. It contains a separate room, where children are admitted with their mothers, half price, namely 1-1/2_d._, being charged per child. There is a kitchen attached where the inmates can buy a large mug of tea for a 1/2_d._, and a huge chunk of bread for a second 1/2_d._; also, if I remember right, other articles of food, if they can afford such luxuries.
The great dormitory in this Shelter, it may be mentioned, was once a swimming-bath. Some of the women who come to this place have slept in it almost every night for eighteen or twenty years. Others make use of it for a few months, and then vanish for a period, especially in the summer, when they go hop or strawberry picking, and return in the winter. Every day, however, fresh people appear, possibly to depart on the morrow and be seen no more.
I asked whether the aged folk had not been benefited by the Old Age Pensions Act. The lady Officer in charge replied that it had been a blessing to some of them. One old woman, however, would not apply for her pension, although she was urged to take a room for herself somewhere. She said that she was afraid if she did so, she might be turned out and be lonely.