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Orig. British Isles

n. A place of lodging for the destitute; the poor or homeless.

Alternatively known as workhouses, poorhouses, lodging houses, or "fourpenny hotels", destitute people would pay a cheap fee or work in return for being allowed to sleep in a dormitory-like situation with other homeless people - men, women and children alike. Usually people were segregated by gender.

These establishments were prevalent in the 19 century, though the word itself dates from the second half of the 1800s.

Some were private and some public. Most were charitable or set up by religious establishments. Some might include a meal for the price. The modern, though much higher standard, equivalent, would be a hostel / youth hostel.
"There are many kinds of dosshouses, but in one thing they are all alike, from the filthy little ones to the monster big ones paying five per cent and blatantly lauded by smug middle-class men who know nothing about them, and that one thing is their uninhabitableness."
by Setanta April 08, 2014
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