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county beyond the cost of transportation. The saving to this county by the work of Superintendent Smith in thus finding homes for these children amounts to $30.50 per week, or $1,586 per year.
If the retention of children in almshouses contrary to law deserves rebuke, work of this character deserves commendation.
PASSING ON PAUPERS.
The officials of each county are anxious to lessen the cost of maintaining public dependents as much as possible. Sometimes this anxiety leads to illegal methods. Those who are properly chargeable to a particular town or county are “passed on" to some other town or county. They are furnished transportation, told to apply to another officer, and thus sent from place to place. This adds to the difficulty of almshouse administration by making it necessary to return persons of this character to their proper residential localities. They usually proceed at once to the almshouse, and, although they may be returned to their homes in due time, pending removal are a source of annoy. ance.
Section 50 of chapter 225 of the Laws of 1896, makes this practice a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50, and it would be well if some of the parties who violate the statute were punished.
DIET. The diet for the inmates of almshouses involves a serious problem. In spite of the fact that almshouse inmates are usually of enfeebled vitality, they insist upon the most substantial forms of food. The food is not only of substantial character, but they insist that it shall be furnished in large quantities. Their mental condition is such that they do not appreciate the folly of over-feeding. As a consequence, owing to the character of the food supplied, there is more or less suffering from indigestion and allied troubles.
Some of the institutions, to lessen the labor connected with the preparation of food, prepare only two meals each day, the
breakfast usually about eight o'clock in the morning, and the dinner about three oclock in the afternoon. The result of this is that the inmates, knowing they will receive no food after three o'clock, eat as much as they possibly can at the afternoon meal and suffer in consequence all night.
It would be well if the county authorities could be induced to adopt a standard of diet which, while ample in quantity, would be better adapted to the real needs of the inmates of the almshouses than that which at present obtains. It would be economical, healthful, diversified, and, in the end, more nourishing and useful.
In one almshouse, in the month of December, for the third meal of the day, the bill of fare included corned beef, mashed turnips and potatoes, bread, butter, tea, sugar and milk. For the other two meals equally hearty food was provided. As most of the persons who partook of this food were in the neighborhood of seventy years of age, did no work, and went to bed immediately, it is apparent the diet was not suited to actual needs. All over-feeding is waste. While inmates ought to have enough, it should be of the right kind and not in wasteful quantity.
One other defect in the matter of diet is its monotonous character. There are almshouses which supply the same fare practically throughout the year. All breakfasts are alike, all suppers contain the same things, the only variety being in the principal article of the noonday meal and changes in vegetables due to the season. The fare ought to be as diversified as is consistent with health, economy and the needs of the inmates. The cost will be no greater than at present, and in a short time the inmates will prefer lighter forms of food than those now in use.
Owing to the infirm character of the inmates of the almshouse, its protection from the dangers of fire is of prime importance. Most of our almshouses are equipped with fire-escapes; all of them have some form of chemical extinguishers or other fire fighting devices, and except in a few instances the buildings may be said to be fairly equipped to meet an emergency.
One of the problems in effectively providing for the safety of the inmates in case of fire is due to the difficulty experienced by infirm people in descending fire-escapes; consequently the form of escape adopted should be suitable for all the classes of people usually found in the almshouse. Ladders will do for the young and athletic, but are unsuitable for the higher stories of an almshouse where inmates must depend upon their own efforts for escape to the ground. The iron stairways attached to some of the almshouses are almost as unsuitable as the ladders. The form most serviceable is the tubular, in which inmates can slide from the upper entrance to the ground without danger to themselves or interference with the escape of others.
This form may be a little more costly than outside stairways and ladders, but it is the safe fire-escape. The fire-escapes on these institutions should be planned for a helpless and infirm population. It will be better to pay a greater price for a perfect fire escape to assure safety, than to put up a set of scaling ladders because they cost little, and through them endanger the lives of the inmates of the institution.
During the past year most of the almshouses have paid par. ticular attention to the water supply. The drought which prevailed during the preceding season had shown the reliance which could be placed upon the provisions made for the institutions, and, where it was found deficient, steps in most instances were taken to remedy the defect. As the health and safety of the inmates depend upon an abundant supply of water, too much stress cannot be laid upon this necessity.
Where the present water supply is not of the best character it should be improved, and where experience has proven the possibility of failure in an emergency, steps should be taken to add to the capacity of wells and reservoirs so as to insure a sufficiency for every need.
It may be said in conclusion that the present condition of the almshouses of the State is exceedingly gratifying. This is mainly due to the officials who are in charge. They are as a body, zealous in their work, have the welfare of the inmates at heart, and are desirous to have their administration merit the approval of the State Board of Charities. The improved conditions due to their administration gives promise of further advance in the almshouses of the State, and an ultimate condition which will be a source of pride to all who are connected with the administration of public charity.
Committee on Almshouses.