Monday, January 24, 2011

The Problem of the Hobo in Jail

One hundred years ago today, a "tramp" was housed in the city jail for vagrancy. The city jail (and city hall) was still the small building on the north side of Cross just west of the river. A hobo jungle existed just north of Forest Avenue near the river, and "tramps" hopping on and off of trains were common in the Depot Town neighborhood.

But what to do if the tramp potentially carried a dread disease? The Ypsilanti Daily Press discussed the options in a January 24, 1911 article.

"There has been some agitation among the city authorities during the past week as to what would happen if a tramp who has been confined in the city jail should become ill with smallpox as was recently the case in the Ann Arbor jail. How would he be cared for and where? The city has no detention hospital and no pest house to keep a person in. What would become of him and how could he be isolated from the public to prevent the spread of the dread disease?

"Mayor Towner stated to a Press representative today that he had given notice to the Board of Health that something definite must be done in the near future to proovide for such an emergency.

"One plan that has been suggested is that a portable pest house should be purchased by the city and placed on the property near the Water Works station [today Water Works Park]. These portable houses may be purchased of a firm in the northern part of the state at a reasonable figure. One or more rooms could be purchased just as desirable. These houses are strong and warmly built and are put together with staples.

"A meeting of the Board of Health and the Council will probably be held very soon to discuss the advisability of such a purchase."


cmadler said...

"Portable Pest House" would be a great name for a band.

Dusty D said...

Hey, it WOULD be! Better than "Hobo with Smallpox," anyways. :)