Homelessness
1890-1920

By the 1920s the unsettling image of the hobo was changing--some noticeable people had ridden the trains. These included the famous authors Carl Sandburg and Jack London. Hoboes stayed in camps, which were located generally on the sunny side of a hill, close to some source of water and almost always close to a railroad track. In these camps, people followed strict rules. No fellow hobo was to rob another one nor was he supposed to threaten one as these were considered serious offenses. During World War II, many hoboes joined the army and served in the war.

Jane Addams and The Hull House also noticed a need for change. In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago. "Settlement houses" such as Hull House provided a location for college women in volunteering to ameliorate situations in the indigent cities. They organized the progressive movement to improve the situation of the housing and poverty crisis. Other groups with similar goals were active as well. Political organizations, unions, and church organizations attempted to end homelessness as well.

Few women tramped. Throughout the nineteenth century domestic work and needle work were the major occupations of poor women. When these failed, prostitution and begging were frequently the only alternatives to the poorhouse or the police lodging house (Kusmer 108).

In the nineteenth century transient homelessness became institutionalized and segregated in American cities (Rossi 20). Toward the end of the century, Skid Row zones were created in many major cities. The purpose of Skid Rows was to cater the needs of transient, poor workingmen. These were neighborhoods inhabited largely by homeless people. These areas consisted of collections of discount hotels, inexpensive restaurants, cheaper bars and  employment agencies.

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