The 1890s was a time of poverty and depression in Melbourne, and the living conditions in Fitzroy were poor. The population was increasing rapidly but there was not enough work, and the supply of housing could not keep up either. Fitzroy’s reputation as a slum area comes from this time. Infanticide was regularly reported in the newspaper. There was no social security or unemployment benefits. The churches delivered some social services but poverty, such as being destitute on the street without gainful means of employment, was a criminal offence. This article in the Argus, Thursday, 18 February 1892, p7 gives some context to the desperation to find employment during this time.
Fitzroy history – unemployment in 1892