Saturday, 11 February 2017

On the streets of Manchester protecting destitute children in 1870

It will have been a cold one on the streets of Manchester last night and I cannot begin to appreciate just how hard it will have been sleeping rough.

Emma before admission to the charity
And yet the numbers of the homeless in the city continue to rise.*

When I was growing up there were people who each night did not have a home to return to.

We called them tramps which was not a derogatory term just a description.

Most sought refuge in a  hostel or with the Salvation Army, and I remember the queues of such men and a few women waiting to be admitted to the “Spike.”

In any advanced and civilised society such a thing is wrong, and was equally abhorrent a century and a bit ago when he Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Grils’ Refuges and Shelter was established.

It started in 1870 as a rescue operation offering destitute boys from Manchester and Salford a bed and a meal for the night.

The charity quickly extended its work to include girls as well as boys, and  provide more permanent homes offering training for future careers along with holiday homes.

It also campaigned against some of the worst cases of child exploitation taking negligent parents to court and arguing against the practise of employing young children to sell matches on the streets of the twin cities.

Emma after admission
Now all of this is a story I keep coming back to and after a bitterly cold night I make no apologies about returning to the work of the charity.

In 1904, in Manchester alone, 530 juveniles had been arrested. Of this number 66 were under the age of 10 and 435 were aged 10-16.

Many were in front of the court not for a crime but for begging, sleeping out or selling goods on the street without a corporation license. Some undoubtedly, under the influence of those they came into contact with at the police courts, drifted into more serious crime.”**

And the “from 1896 the Refuge had already begun to take in children to its Shelter on Chatham Street to prevent them having to be locked up in an adult police cell. This was an exception to the rule however.”**

But in the course of the next few decades the charity continued its work and just ten years later the secretary could report that that there were no children sleeping rough on the streets of the twin cities.

Thomas Bowers ...... a succesful story
Location; Manchester and Salford

Pictures. courtesy of the Together Trust,

*Homelessness In Manchester - Have We Reached Crisis Levels? Alec Herron, October 10 2016, Manchester Confidential,

**Treatment of Juvenile Offenders, Getting Down and Dusty, October 24, 2016,

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