Think Officials Did the Best They Could.

Norwood officials and people are highly indignant at the sensational story in a Boston publication concerning the treatment given by the town authorities to the family of Charles Belcher, who are now living in the Norwood town “lockup”.

The situation as described in the article has practically existed for nearly two weeks. Some two weeks ago Belcher and his family were living in a not too desirable tenement on day street. It was practically a one-room affair, and had formerly been a Methodist church.

The family has been unfortunate and has been frequently in destitute circumstances for some years. It has been repeatedly helped by the town. Three weeks ago Gertrude Belcher, the 14-year-old daughter, was stricken with Scarlet fever. The Board of Health believed the sanitary condition of the place bad, and ascertained that the owner was a resident of Brooklyn. New York, having an agent here. The Belcher house was placed under quarantine, and the usual “Scarlet fever” sign posted.

Friday, April 28th, at 3:00 a.m., the Belcher house was gutted by fire, and the family was rendered homeless. On that occasion, people who were appealed to give the family shelter refused to do so, as no one wished to run the risk of the infection of Scarlet fever.

After the family had remained for an hour or so shelterless in the cold morning air it was decided to lodge them temporarily in the station house as the only available place of refuge.

Dr. H. Leon Steele, chairman of the Board of Health, hoped to find a tenement for the family almost immediately, but the general fear of Scarlet Fever has thus far rendered his efforts fruitless. The family is simply in the lockup because there is no other place available. They are made as comfortable there as circumstances will permit. The mother and the two well children get out of doors on pleasant Days and the family are provided with little comforts and luxuries not accorded prisoners.

The only thing which the town can apparently be blamed for is the lack of either a poor house or a pest house. The town has few poppers and shares with six other towns in the vicinity the feeling that a local poor house or town farm is unnecessary. As for a pest house, the town has never, in recent years at least, had an epidemic of smallpox or other diseases and has never seen the necessity for a pest house or a hospital. The effort to procure a house for the family is rendered doubly difficult by the town’s general lack of tenements. Tenements of any kind are very hard to procure at anything like a reasonable rate and single tenements still scarcer.

Norwood people are by no means hard-hearted or uncharitable. And in every case of known distress or destitution, a subscription for a relief fund is at once started. A subscription for the Belcher family was started about a week ago in a considerable sum has been raised. Members of the Belcher family have not complained about their shelter or treatment. When Gertrude recovers from the Scarlet fever some better refuge for the family will be provided. There is no feeling in town against the authorities for their action in this matter. It is generally conceited that they have simply done the best they could with a very difficult problem.

Boston Evening Transcript, May 19, 1905