By Most Rev. Louis Mathias, S.D.B. ARCHBISHOP of MADRAS and Mylapore
WHEN in 1935 I was transferred to Madras as Archbishop, the population of the city was no more than 700,000. Today it has some 1,812,700 inhabitants.
In 1639. when the East India Company established its centre in this area, Madras was a small fishing village with a population said In have emigrated from nearby Mylapore village. It was in Mylapore that St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred. Madras. today, is one of the most important cities of India and one of the most beautiful.
A VIER the second
" world war, trade increased considerably, so did buildings, offices and workshops. Unfortunately, as elsewhere no provision was made for the influx of people in search of work, neither was there any scheme to provide housing facilities either for the employed or the unemployed.
This extraordinary increase, within a few years. of the city's population created a very serious problem. the problem of the homeless. Anxious to find means of livelihood, poor villagers came in great numbers to the city and. either to be near the place of their employment, or because they could not find any better place, settled themselves on the pavement or built huts of mud and straw in the first open space they could find.
Thus are the poor and unhealthy slums multiplied and spread all over the city.
There are 306 slums with 57,400 families within the city limits the slum and pavement population totals 265,000. The Corporation of Madras. pioneer in the work of slum improvement, has already done wonders. It has provided essential amenities in 110 of the 306 slums.
WITH this example could the Catholic Church, which has always been in the vanguard of social and charitable works. be indifferent to a problem so urgent and so deserving of our sympathy—especially as many Catholics are involved? In the parish of St. Teresa of
the Child Jesus. one of the 28 city parishes, the church is surrounded by more than 2,000 Catholics living in poor huts.
Following an appeal by the late Pope Pius XII in the Marian Year. . we also launched an appeal for the poor and needy.
Before starting work, we considered carefully which would be the best way of building houses or apartments. To provide the homeless With better huts, with stronger walls hut yet with roofs of leaves, might have helped us to give shelter to a greater number.
Tenements, or apartments built with mud and with thatched roofs cost very much less than houses constructed with bricks and mortar. But a hut will always be a hut, will easily get dirty, and will always be infested with insects.
EVERYTHING considered, it was decided preferable to help a smaller number of families providing them with strongly constructed tenements, as shown in the above picture. These will last generations without any financial burden to • ur successors.
Moreover, since these poor families need also to be morally educated, it was necessary to give them a shelter, decent. clean and hygienic, so that they might be trained also in Christiap modesty and thus raise their standard of living.
The plan finally adopted was to build in brick and mortar with a reinforced concrete terrace; the doors and windows to be of teak wood which would resist white ants.
So far, thanks to the generosity of benefactors, we have been able to build 109 tenements and houses for 109 families, The cost has been more than £32,000. excluding the cost of the land.
IT is needless to mention
A how happy these poor families are. Formerly accustomed to dirt, darkness and vermin in wretched huts, they are now living in what is for them a small palace.
Our wish was to build at least 500 such tenements. But all the money we had for the purpose has been exhausted. We have had to stop a work which seems to us most beautiful, most urgent, most social and Christian.
Have we any scheme to find the means to continue this beneficent work? Yes, here it is: a simple one presented to yini in full confidence in that it will elicit wholehearted co-operation.
What will it cost, after all, to give one Pound towards a shelter for the homeless? Will it really be difficult to find one hundred thousand souls, good and generous, to part with just one Pound for this splendid humanitarian work?
THIS would give us A without any difficulty the amount needed to build the remaining 400 tenements, solid and decent, to house for years and years 400 more families which will bless their benefactors all the days of their life.
Reniittances to help this crusade for the homeless may be sent tar National and Grindlay Rank Ltd., 54 Parliament Street, London, S.W.1, specifying that the money is ro be credited to the account of the Most Rev. L. Mathias, Archbishop of Madras.