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|Possibly you have
heard of the Strangers' Rest,
in Saint George Street, Ratcliff Highway, where, as far as man can
judge, great and permanent good is being constantly done to the souls
of sailors. A sailor once entered this 'Rest' considerably the worse
for drink. He was spoken to by Christian friends, and asked to sign the
pledge. He did so, and has now been steadfast for years. Returning from
a long voyage lately, he went to visit the Rest, and there, at
the Bible-class, prayed. Part of his prayer was -
God bless the Strangers' RestThis is a sample of the feeling with which the place is regarded by those who have received blessing there. In the same street, only a few doors from this Rest, is the Sailors' Welcome Home. This is more of a home than the other, for it furnishes lodging and unintoxicating refreshment, while its devoted soul-loving manager, Miss Child, and her assistant workers, go fearlessly into the very dens of iniquity, and do all they can to bring sailors to Jesus, and induce them to take the pledge against strong drink, in which work they are, through God's blessing, wonderfully successful. These two missions work, as it were, into each other's hands. In the 'Rest' are held prayer-meetings and Bible-classes, and then these are dismissed, the sailors find the open door of the Welcome Home ready to receive them, and the inmantes there seek to deepen the good influence that has been brought to bear at the meetings - and this in the midst of one of the very worst parts of London, where temptation to every species of evil is rampant, on the right-hand and on the left, before and behind....
O Lord, we thank Thee for this place, and we shall thank Thee to all eternity.
Sunday-School efforts did not satisfy me. The boys were few, and I
failed to see any progress. But I had resolved that I would do no work
on Sundays except for others, so I joined a young Australian of my
class in hospital in holding services on Sunday nights in half a dozen
of the underground lodging-houses along the Radcliffe Highway. He was a
good musician, so he purchased a fine little portable harmonium, and
whatever else the lodgers thought of us, they always liked the music.
We used to meet for evening tea at a place in the famous Highway known as The Stranger's Rest, outside of which an open-air service was always held for the sailors wandering up and down the docks. At these a number of ladies would sing; and after the meetings a certain number of the sailors were asked to come in and have refreshments. There were always some who had spent their money on drink, or been robbed, or were out of ships, and many of them were very fine men. Some were foreigners — so much so that a bit farther down the road a Norwegian lady carried on another similar work, especially for Scandinavians.
|He hoped no one would think, because of the recent outrages [the Jack the Ripper murders], that matters were worse than they were some time ago. He could speak of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, and he did not hesitate to say the condition of things there was very much better than it was ten years ago. He would tell them what made it much worse than it was, what undid a great deal of good work that had been done and was being done - that was an enormous influx of inexperienced workers, who came down to the East End, stood in the way of those who knew the work, and were doing it to the best of their ability, wasted a great deal of money, dried up the springs of charity, and then, because they did not succeed, as most surely they would not succeed, discredited all such enterprise before those who must be looked to for material assistance. He hoped to see the day when every district in the East end would have some such institution as this connected with it, because by means of such agencies they would be able to do a great deal for the rescue of the lost.|
My attention has just been called to Mr. Walter Hazell's letter in Saturday's issue of The Times.
Nine years ago I came to live in Ratcliff Highway with the simple determination to find out how best to help that class of poor, miserable women whose mode of living has been so prominently brought forward by the horrible events of the past few weeks. During all this time I have been able to keep an open door for them, and with my fellow helpers have been learning, as we could only learn by experience, how most wisely and effectively to help those who come to us. The work has been very quietly carried on, but our houses have always been full to overflowing, and while hundreds of young girls and children have been rescued from the most dangerous surroundings, trained as little servants, emigrated to the colonies, and in other ways given a fair start in life, still many more from among the fallen have found our home a "bridge of hope" by which they have passed on to better things.
The revelation of existence in Whitechapel lodging houses and in the streets of our great city must not simply evoke words of commiseration or be allowed to die out as a nine days' wonder, but must surely result in very practical measures being adopted for permanently benefitting those at least who are willing to be helped. Hundreds of women in this sad East end lead their degraded lives of sin for daily bread, or to secure a night's shelter in a fourpenny lodging house, a fact of which none can now plead ignorance, for the horrors of a few weeks (to our shame as a nation be it said) have brought out in awful relief the conditions under which so many of our fellow creatures exist, and which, though told persistently and without exaggeration by East end workers, have made but little impression.
Finding that the missing link in the work in Ratcliff Highway was a night shelter, we have, during the past year, built one as a wing to our new refuge, and this will be opened on the 30th inst. by the Bishop of Bedford, although circumstances have compelled us already to give shelter in it to many who needed immediate help. Night shelters, answering only the purposes of a casual ward, may be the means of as much harm as good, but, managed with judicious discrimination and constant personal supervision, I believe that our "bridge of hope" night shelter will be an effectual means of helping not only those who have fallen but of saving very many friendless young girls from utter despair, when they come to their last resources. At this moment the strain of the work is very great. While people are devising, and very rightly so, how best to organise new methods and larger schemes, it sometimes appears that those who have been plodding on in the midst of the misery, and who have to bear the brunt of sudden emergencies, are apt to be forgotten, and however unwillingly we do so, it seems right to call attention to our present need of financial help. We are always thankful to see visitors, or to send reports if desired.
Apologising for taking up so much of your valuable space, I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
Mary H. Steer, Hon. Supt., Ratcliff Highway Refuge, St. George's in the East, London, E.
||6072 [new premises]
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