June 8, 1909
As a consequence of one night spent at the Helping Hand, not as a matter of necessity, but because the housing of the unemployed is his fad, Edwin A. Brown, a wealthy citizen of Denver, called upon Mayor Crittenden yesterday, to urge the necessity of establishing a municipal lodging house along the lines of those in New York, Chicago, Buffalo and one or two other large cities.
Mr. Brown is a cousin of W. C. Brown, president of the New York Central railroad. He characterizes the Helping Hand as a monument of "what ought not to be."
One night he gave a boy in Denver a quarter, and then set set after with the mendicant to see what he did with it. The boy did pretty well, but Mr. Brown thought that two things went wrong: the boy should not have been compelled to beg, and he ought to have been provided at public expense with a good bed and a breakfast to fit him for a day's work. That was the beginning.
Then he set about seeing how other cities cared for their indigent. Mr. Brown went to Chicago. First he registered at the Auditorium Annex, got into overalls and jumper, put on a soft ulster, walked out of the hotel, checked the coat at a stand, and went to the Chicago municipal lodging house and applied for a free bed. He got it, and a god one.
From there he went to New York, asked the police to give him a free bed, and got a better one than in Chicago.
From there he went to Washington, where there is a national lodging house, once more in the jumper and the overalls, and the overalls, and foregathered in the dirtiest place he had been. He came to Kansas City, and says that here "is the monument for what ought not to be, the private lodging house that Kansas City offers as its haven for the 90 per cent of honest but unemployed men, and as many of the 10 per cent of rogues as want to get in.
Relating his experience here, Mr. Brown said:
"New York paid $500,000 for a lodging house for the 1,000 men and fifty women it cares for nightly. Cleanliness marks every inch of space in it. I was shown the place by the police, checked in, ushered before a doctor, examined, given a night gown that I learned was one reserved for those physically and bodily well, and then repaired to bathe. I learned afterwards that my own clothing was taken to a fumigating room and there treated.
"Others got different night gowns, and went to different wards, but before they were admitted to those wards they went to a dispensary and got medicines which they needed.
"Next morning, refreshed by wholesome sleep in a clean place, and given a good breakfast, I set out with the other 999, ready to look for and do a day's work.
"On coming to Kansas City I applied at the police headquarters for free lodging, and was told to go to the Helping Hand. There I went, and was told I would have to work for my bed and board.
" 'That I am most willing to do,' I replied, and then they took my hat as a ransom, and told me to go to a dormitory. It was dark, for somebody told me they had forty cots in the place. It smelled.
"It was not directed to be washed, nor had any of the others who were huddled in there to spread or catch disease. I could not sleep, so noisome was the atmosphere.
"I heard a boy moaning and went to see the poor chap. He was only 20, but was wracked with rheumatism and begging for relief. he had a few strips of cotton rags, which, from time to time, he took to a faucet to saturate, so he might bind his wrists.
"An attendant came through. The boy called to ask if he could get into the dispensary in the city hall, saying his pain was almost unendurable. The attendant told him that 9 o'clock next morning would be the earliest hour at which he might expect any relief.
"I was the first to get up, anxious to get out. In the dining room was a great throng. The meat was abominable. The coffee was not worth the name, and it was without sugar or milk. The bread was indifferent, the beans, barely palatable and the potatoes a disgrace.
"After that shocking pretense at a breakfast I was told I must work two hours at the rate of 20 cents an hour, which was not teaching a poor man to be honest and fair with his fellows. I went with three others into the filthiest dormitory, not the ones I had slept in, to make up 116 beds. That number of men had slept in the place.
"In New York no bed linen is used twice without being washed. I do not go far from truth when I say that the sheets in the Kansas City Helping Hand institute have not been washed for weeks, and the blankets not since they were first put on the beds. The blankets were stiff. In the dormitory I worked my two hours and got out of that place into a bath, where I kept an attendant going for the busiest hour he ever put in. I lost my overalls and jumper, as after that trip to the Helping Hand they are not fit for even another experiment."
E. T. Brigham, superintendent of the Helping Hand, who has visited all the charitable institutions in the large Eastern cities, said last night:
"We don't claim that conditions are ideal, but we do know that we have the best system in the country. We have not the money to erect magnificent lodging houses as they have in New York, but with the help of the city we have solved the problem of ridding Kansas City of the undesirable poor.
"Men who want work are not out of employment for any length of time. Those who don't want work will leave the city when they find they have to go to work for all that they eat. The saloons and cheap lodging houses do not house men in any kind of quarters as formerly, thanks to the tenement commission. Every one is sent to the Helping Hand where they must work for the shelter and food they get.
"In New York the municipal lodging house is the finest in the country, but they have no system to make a man go to the institution. If he detests work he can go to a bread line or a cheap saloon. He lives all winter without work and others are attracted to the city.