A house where paupers are supported at the public expense; a poor-house. Also a house set apart for the aged poor free of rent.
“Only, alas! the poor who had neither friends nor attendants. Crept away to die in the alms-house, home of the homeless.” Longfellow: Evangeline, part ii. 5, 2.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894