Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/41

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what has been done in the houses since then; and if you like to leave and think you can suit yourself better, I am glad you should make yourself comfortable. Meantime, of course, while you stay, you pay rent. I will call for it this evening if it doesn't suit you to pay now. Good morning."

Almost immediately after the purchase of the houses, we had the accumulated refuse of years carted away, the pavement in the yards and front areas were repaired, dustbins cleared, the drains put in order, and water supplied. Such improvements as these are tolerably unspoilable, but for any of a more destructible nature it was better to wait. The importance of advancing slowly, and of gaining some hold over the people as a necessary accompaniment to any real improvement in their dwellings, was perpetually apparent. Their habits were so degraded that we had to work a change in these before they would make any proper use of the improved surroundings we were prepared to give them. We had locks torn off, windows broken, drains stopped, dustbins misused in every possible manner, even pipes broken, and water-taps wrenched away. This was sometimes the result of carelessness, and deeply-rooted habit of dirt and untidiness; sometimes the damage was willful. Our remedy was to watch the right moment for furnishing these appliances, to persevere in supplying them, and to get the people by degrees to work with us for their preservation. I have learned to know that people are ashamed to abuse a place they find cared for. They will add dirt to dirt till a place is pestilential, but the more they find done for it, the more they will respect it, till at last order and cleanliness prevail. It is this feeling of theirs, coupled with the fact that they do not like those whom they have learned to love, and whose standard is higher than their own, to see things which would grieve them, which has enabled us to accomplish nearly every reform of outward things that we have achieved; so that the surest way to have any place kept clean is to go through it often yourself. First I go at