Fiction Friday – Poorhouse – If Walls Could Talk

I am a house that doesn’t really exist anymore. I was run by the county and a pinch more friendly than the workhouses I was modeled after.

Being poor is a reflection on a person’s social skills, his slacking nature and should not be encouraged. So I was not designed to give pleasure of any sort, I was supposed to give the bare minimum. Shelter.

In days far off a man who couldn’t provide for his family had to bring his wife and children with him to gain entry. The women were segregated and set to work and all custody and claim to the children was forsaken.

Over here, in America, poor houses were run by the county. Someone over looked the running of the house and rules were strict. Able bodied men worked and because I was a farm house they could somewhat support themselves from the gardens, small crops and animals they tended.

A doctor could visit at his own expense. Out of guilt, debt or cheery Christian attitude. They came and went.

The homes like mine were places of last resort, hard luck and a reflection of economic times.

As America adopted a sort of welfare system, social security and such I fell out of use.

By the time I was built, children were no longer allowed to enter, but they had their own, there were orphanages.

The insane and infirm were given their own shelter, shared, I heard, with those who were dying from tuberculosis. It was a grim time.

I closed down a long time ago but I still remember the gloom, the hopelessness. The hunger. The victims of circumstance.

In the 1980s most remaining orphanages, hospitals for sick and infirm people closed down suddenly. They called it deinstitutionalization. I called it the birth of homelessness. The poor and anti social now reside in shelters, crack houses, jails, juvi centers. The worst off who don’t end up in jail are standing on corners, sleeping under the overpasses, having soup out of small trailers with Bible phrases painted on the sides.

We do have a poorhouse that is allowed, a place of last resort, but no one likes to talk about it that way. It is a place where our oldest, the frail, the almost sick and recovering people live out their end days being cared for by underpaid rotating staff.

It comes, usually, one step after a retirement community or assisted living facility. Nursing homes are run like I was and are still run by the county. The income for upkeep comes from the social security and welfare systems, a combination of state and county funds. But shhhh don’t say that too loudly.

I am out of fashion, I no longer house the unfortunate, the drifters, the insane, the orphaned, the poor, I’m really just a tumbled down corner at the edge of a farm, run by very pleasant people just barely able to get by, even with assistance from various programs that dictate what they grow and how.

Is it good that I am gone? I wonder.

I thought when they closed my doors I might be rehabbed much like other houses and buildings no longer serving the people who built them. I thought it was a sign of better times. It wasn’t it was a sign of a country trying to disperse its poor and unfortunate, to spread them out, to look away.

It isn’t that I want to be rebuilt, leave me here as some piled stones, lead paint chips, a heap. Leave me as a silent unassuming memorial to times and people we our country would rather not observe.

I’m not really gone, any more than I am the sum of my brick and mortar, the silent desperation I housed, the wanting.

Join me on Wednesday for Writerly Wednesday and again next Friday when a new house speaks.

Don’t touch anything sharp!

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.