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homeless, charity, poverty


Shelter for the temporarily homeless, whether or not they were needy in the modern sense, was as typical a charity in the tons and villages of medieval Europe as was providing food for the hungry. The Rule of St Benedict, as well as local Hispanic customs, imposed the obligation of hospitality upon monasteries, and likewise the growing towns of the eleventh and twelfth centuries saw the need to provide beds for those who were not householders. Those served were a diverse lot: pilgrims wending their way to shrine like Santiago, clergy and others in town on business, wandering beggars and the local poor. Increasingly, those with means seem to have secured their own shelters in inns or residences, while the poor sought the more public shelters operated by churches, monasteries, town governments, or private benefaction. By the thirteenth century, every town of size in Europe, and in Iberia, had several hospitaller establishments.