Poorhouse  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A poorhouse or workhouse was a government-run facility in the past for the support and housing of dependent or needy persons, typically run by a local government entity such as a county or municipality.

In England, Wales and Ireland (but not in Scotland) a poorhouse was more commonly known as a workhouse. In early Victorian times (see Poor Law), poverty was seen as a dishonourable state caused by a lack of the moral virtue of industriousness (or industry as it was called). As was depicted by Charles Dickens, a workhouse could resemble a reformatory and house children, either with families or alone, or a penal labour regime to give the poor work at manual labour and subject them to physical punishment. As the 19th century progressed, conditions became better.

The term is commonly applied to such a facility that housed the destitute elderly; institutions of this nature were widespread in the United States prior to the adoption of the Social Security program in the 1930s. Facilities housing indigents who are not elderly are typically referred to as homeless shelters, or simply "shelters," in current usage.

Often the poorhouse was situated on the grounds of a poor farm on which able-bodied residents were required to work; such farms were common in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries; it could even be part of the same economic complex as a prison farm and other penal or charitable public institutions.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Poorhouse" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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