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S. Straus. The board of directors of the fund includes fifty-
six prominent representatives of business, finance, the pro-
fessions, labor and social work. The first officers elected are :
president, Mr. Blaine; vice-presidents, John S. Burke,
Barklie McK. Henry, Bayard F. Pope, David H. McAlpin
Pyle, Paul Felix Warburg; treasurer, Junius S. Morgan;
honorary assistant treasurers, John M. Schiff, George J.
(lillespie; secretary, George J. Hecht. On the first execu-
tive committee of the board of directors are: Lawrence
Marx, John A. Coleman, Francis D. Bartow, Mr. Blaine,
Mr. Burke, Stuart M. Crocker, Mr. Gifford, Mr. Henry,
Michael C. O'Brien, Mr. Pope, Mr. Pyle and Mr.
Warburg.

The members of the Welfare Council's committee on fed-
erated financing which drew up the plan for the fund, and
the social agencies which they represented, were: Mr.
Blaine, the chairman, Mr. Hecht, Neva R. Deardorff and
Robert P. Lane, Welfare Council of New York City; Mrs.
George E. Brower, Brooklyn Bureau of Charities; Mr.
Henry and Bailey B. Burritt, Association for Improving the
Condition of the Poor; Mr. Pyle and Mr. Crocker, the
United Hospital Fund ; Mr. Pope and Stanley P. Davies,
Charity Organization Society; Mr. Falconer, Brooklyn
Bureau of Charities; the Rev. Edward A. Hayes and the
Rev. Bryan J. McEntegart, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese
of New York ; Solomon Lowenstein and Mr. Marx, Fed-
eration for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies ;
the Rev. Edward Swanstrom, Catholic Charities, Brooklyn.

Douglas P. Falconer, who has acted as secretary
of the organizing committee, is executive director of the
fund. The original board will have the responsibility of
appointing the first campaign chairman, of assisting him in
organizing the campaign and of setting its definite goal.
The board eventually will employ such staff as is necessary
and will allocate money requisite for these expenses. It will
be a further responsibility of the board to establish rules
governing the types of agency obligations which the fund
will assist and to determine rules and regulations concern-
ing information to be supplied by participating agencies.

The whole coloration of the Greater New York Fund,
Inc. is indicated in the study committee's tentative report,
which diffidently says, "This plan is not offered as perfect,
nor as a final and completed document . . . but in the con-
viction that it provides a basis on which a substantial and
helpful beginning can be made and in the belief that the
time has come for such a united effort." Here is no rigid
machinery imposed from above, but a pliant and responsive
organism, prepared to live its way into a complicated situa-
tion, aware of its limitations and shunning alike the irrita-
tions of inflexibility and the dangers of dictatorship.



M \RCH 1938



69



These Past Five Years



By WILLIAM H. MATTHEWS



ONE morning in the early spring of 1916 William H. Mat-
thews, then as now identified with the New York Association
for Improving the Condition of the Poor, heard his young assistant,
Harry L. Hopkins, protest bitterly the plight of the able-bodied
men whom he had been interviewing, men who wanted work and
for lack of it had to apply for relief. That same day Mr. Matthews
chanced to see in a newspaper that a large tract of Bronx Park
property could not be opened up rapidly because of lack of funds
to pay the necessary labor. Taking time only to get his hat he
hastened to the park commissioner to ask if he would employ and
supervise a hundred men working three-day shifts if the AICP
would pay them. The commissioner would. The president of the
AICP gave his blessing to this untraditional use of relief funds,



and before night young Mr. Hopkins was enthusiastically writing,
letters to a hundred men calling them to "real work at real wages."
Thus actually, if not historically (a few earlier precedents existed)
was work relief born in this country. That Mr. Hopkins became its .
protagonist, its administrator on a national multi-billion dollar
scale, is no surprise to Mr. Matthews who witnessed his early
conversion to its philosophy.

Mr. Matthews administered the program of the New York-
Emergency Relief Committee which during 1930-33, before the
advent of state and federal work relief programs, raised funds that
provided jobs for 95,228 people. [See A Job-Line that Cost
$28,000,000 by William H. Matthews, Survey Midmonthly, Novem-
her 1933, page 371.]



WE have travelled at a fast pace along the road of
social welfare in America during the past five'years.
Looking over the whole front today, it is clear that
we have entered a new era. In general it may be said that
the American people have accepted the doctrine that those
of our citizens who find themselves in distress by denial of
opportunity to work for a living shall be granted, by right,
assistance from funds derived by taxation from our eco-
nomic structure as a whole.

Under our present industrial order, this was bound to
be. In recognizing the necessity for this change in general
social policy, we have but done what England began doing
thirty or more years ago. Bit by bit and measure by measure
she has placed upon her statute books legislation that had
for its purpose the righting of the wrongs of her industrial
system. Not only as a matter of right but also as a matter
of self-protection, she has done this.

As we enter upon a new road of public welfare our con-
cern must be with the best methods to adopt and to improve
upon as we travel it. Certainly nothing will be gained by
belittling and disparaging the public agencies that have been
set up over the past four years to do the things which plain-
ly it was impossible for voluntary agencies to do. Rather
will it be the part of wisdom for private to cooperate with
public agencies and thus perhaps, improve and strengthen
them. In times of emergency such as we knew in 1931-32,
there was no time for planning long range programs. Panic
and fear of even worse things called for every sort of emer-
gency measure that gave any promise of bringing back hope
and faith to frightened, despairing people. It was no time
to wait for commissions to study and report on what might
be done to check the fast outgoing tide.

Today, February 6, 1938, the mighty urge of hope put
in the hearts of the people by President Roosevelt in his
campaign for "The Forgotten Man" is on the ebb. There
is discouragement and bewilderment over the fact that in
spite of the vast sums of money spent through PWA,WPA
and other government relief agencies, the number of per-
sons dependent on one or another of them remains at
staggering proportions. I am aware that every newspaper
columnist, every radio news commentator, every political
economist is offering an explanation of this even if not a
cure. I write only of the relief aspects of the situation.



A month before the last Presidential election, I lunchei
with two men high in the councils of the present nationa
administration. We talked of the WPA and other of the
government's relief programs, and I urged that they use
their influence to clean up the bad spots, and particularly
to rid relief of politics. The reply of one of the two, a mem
ber of the United States Senate, was: "There are too many
bad spots, the whole program had to be done so hurriedly
that it got out of hand. It will be cleaned up only by getting
rid of the whole business. We'll have good times when this
election is over. WPA then will fade out of the picture am
we can forget about it."

THAT, unfortunately, has not happened. Harry L. Hop-
kins, in one of his recent reports, speaks of a possible
permanent WPA. In the same paragraph he says, "Americ
will win the fight where other nations have failed. It wi
win because it has the brains and the wealth and the leader-
ship." I cannot see as part of the victory predicted, a per-
manent WPA. That would mean that the country has
come practically to the end of the road of development and
expansion, that it is entering upon a static social and eco-
nomic period. If that be true, then the best thing many
people could hope for would be to get on the best possible
relief project and spend their lives there. What was thought
of as a temporary way of living through an emergency
would become a permanent institution in our national life.
The effective partnership between government and business
which President Roosevelt continues to call for, should
bring a much better answer than that. The country's brains
and leadership which Mr. Hopkins challenges, should find
better cure for "the sickness of industrial capitalism," if
that be the cause of our present condition. I myself am un-
willing to accept defeat.

Be that as it may, the immediate prospect is that the
WPA or something in its place, must be continued for
some time. What has been its record ?

Going back to the days of the Civil Works Administra-
tion we have had some five years' experience with work
relief as carried on by the government- national, state and
municipal. From its beginning it has been a gallant, humane
effort to meet the urgencies of life by a method that gave
the best promise of preserving the skill, the morale and self-



70



SURVEY MIDMONTHLY



respect of the unemployed. Mail work relief accomplished
its avowed purpose of temporarily putting all able-bodied
out-of-work persons on government payrolls and thus, by
increasing purchasing power, pulling us out of the depres-
sion, it would have been counted a success. But it brought
no such result. The general industrial pump was too far
out-of-whack to respond to the priming. That mistake - have
been made, its most ardent supporters admit. That it has
accomplished much, its severest critics do not deny. If it is
on, permanently or otherwise, is it not time to make
a candid, unprejudiced review of the whole program, to
take stock of where it has broken down, where it has made
, where are the gaps and where the strengths?



MANY men come to my office to tell me, "You can't
get anywhere in this relief business unless you are
right politically." I know that is not wholly true, at least
not in New York City. I know also that some of the persons
who say it are themselves trying to get where they have no
right to get, to be appointed to jobs which they are not
qualified to hold.

Yet notwithstanding the assertions made by public offi-
cials from time to time that politics have not influenced
relict policies and relief allotments, there exists considerable
evidence to the contrary. The most vicious and sinister thing
in a government relief program is the use made of it for the
strengthening and continuance of the spoils system in our
political life. In a recent article in The Saturday Ev<'iiin</
Post, two writers of reputation speak of one New Deal
senator as owning the relief administration of his state "as
completely as he owns his garters." An overstatement, per-
haps, but many like statements have been made concerning
other political leaders.

More than once, evidence has been published in news-
papers in different parts of the country proving that VVPA
pay envelopes, as also old age assistance envelopes, have been
used to carry propaganda for a political candidate or a
political party. It is to Mr. Hopkins' everlasting credit that
he always has taken action against such practices when they
came to his attention. But America is a big place and for
many years one of the chief pastimes of politicians has been
to hang around the corners and lurk in the shadows when-
ever jobs were being handed out. The habit is difficult to
break.

In 1933 the wide open gateway of the CVVA was not
unnoticed by the politician. Through it he went with his
out-of-work constituents, irrespective of their immediate
need of work. Not far behind him, though with different
motive, were the various relief agencies, social workers, and
many other well-intentioned people all determined to dump
on the government relief list as many as they possibly could
of the people they had been caring for as part of the private
relief program. Through the gates, along with the "honest
to God" needy, out-of-work, employable person, went the
man with the letter from his district leader or from some
other person of "influence"; also a considerable number of
generally incompetent people who had been in and out of
relief organizations pretty much all their lives; and with
them numbers of people anxious to work yet so mentally
or physically handicapped that even in the best industrial
times they could find only occasional jobs. Mixed in with
them all was a scattering of the generally lazy and shiftless
who thought they saw in government relief work an easy
way to slip through life.

Some of each of these groups are still on the payroll. Not



by any effort of their own, will they return to a competitive
industrial life. Some projects have been so loaded and clut-
tered with such people that work relief has become a joke
and a by-word to intelligent, conscientious workers who
daily observe their slackness, general indifference and in-
dolence towards the work provided. Too often do we see
ten or a dozen men with a wheelbarrow, a crowbar and a
couple of shovels engaged on a two or three-man job.

But the answer to abuse of this kind is not to stop the
whole program but to clean up its bad spots. One of the
first steps in such a clean up should be to make the VVPA
work relief program in fact as well as in theory an integral
part of our employment exchange service as now set up
under the Department of Labor. As rapidly as possible,
labor exchange offices should be made the centers for all
work relief assignments. At the same time applicants should
be registered for regular employment in private industry.
I am aware that attempts in this direction already have been
made but I am no less aware that rarely have they resulted
successfully, due largely to the small appropriations made
for the employment service. With past work records re-
quired in such registration, work projects gradually would
be relieved of the unemployable, the casual laborers and
ne'er-do-wells who have crept into them or who have been
foisted upon them by politicians, social workers and relief
agencies. Of course 1 am postulating, optimistically, that
the employment exchanges would be free from such pres-
sures. The merit system under a competitive civil service, as
it already exists in the Labor Department, at least would
tend to keep personnel out of the hands of politicians and
other "people of influence."

JUST how, under such a system, would persons eligible for
work relief be taken from relief rolls? The public relief
agency in every community would send to the employment
service any person receiving or eligible for relief and, in its
opinion, physically able to work. He would be registered
both for work in regular industry and for work relief, and
his work record, good or bad, would become a part of that
registration. Since the employment offices administer unem-
ployment compensation his status in that regard would be
ascertained at the same time. From the list of unemployed
so registered the employment service would fill all requisi-
tions made on it by the WPA. If neither work in regular
industry nor WPA was at once available, the unemployed
person would return to the relief agency to remain under
its care until called by the employment service. Once at
work, however, either in regular industry or oh WPA,
social work as represented by the relief agency, would
be OUT, except as the worker might ask for it himself.

Here again I am aware that this is the declared policy
of the WPA, but I am also aware that in a great number
of cases it is not practiced. This is partly due to the relief-
mindedness of certain of the WPA employes, partly due to
the reluctance of the social workers to relinquish cases which
they believe, quite sincerely, still need their ministration,
and more generally to the undisputed fact that in many
instances, particularly of large families, the WPA wage is
insufficient to support the household and supplementary
relief must be supplied. And supplementary relief means
that social work remains in the picture. For example, last
October the Illinois Emergency Relief Administration ex-
pended $98,510 from general relief funds to supplement,
with an average of $15.57 per case, the income of 6328
families having members employed on WPA. Obviously if



MARCH 1938



71



WPA employment is to be as "real" as proponents of the
system want it to be the wage must be at least on a sub-
sistence level, not requiring supplementation by a second
government relief agency.

THE sooner work relief can be given as nearly as pos-
sible the same status as that of work under regular
conditions of hiring and discharging, the sooner it will
command the respect both of the worker and the public;
the sooner will the indifferent and lazy be sifted out of it
and the sooner will the straight unemployed, able-bodied
person be released from the web of social case work.

In the face of the mistakes we have made in the past, the
federal government now is being urged to supply funds for
direct relief to be administered by the cities and local com-
munities. Before that is done, whatever our opinions may
be as to its wisdom, we should be quite sure that the com-
munities are ready to accept and administer the program.
Until we are assured of that, let us not repeat the mistakes
of the past by jumping like jackrabbits from one plan to
another with no idea as to whether the jump is to land us
on solid ground or in a swamp of further misery for the
unemployed. Before we scrap and begin again should we
not try to have a blueprint as to where we are going? And
let us not be so simple as to think that relief administration
in local communities is free from politics. The grossest
irregularities, not only as to the relief of the unemployed
but also in the administration of the old age assistance act
in certain states, have been due to the deviltry and dis-
honesty of local rather than federal administration. In the
present hue and cry against work relief, let us get back to
the fundamental reason for it, respect for the individual
whose only request is that he be given an opportunity to
work for his living, and his right to live by work, preferably
in private industry, under regular conditions of hiring and
of qualification for the job.

At present we seem to be pretty much where we were in
1933 insofar as getting the unemployed back at work is
concerned. The old slogan, "We cannot, we must not let
the people starve," is again heard over the land. How often,
over the past five years, have those words been spoken by
public officials, by bankers, by welfare workers, by indus-
trial leaders, by chambers of commerce presidents, by New
Dealers and old dealers, by pretty much everyone in no
personal danger of that experience ! The words have become
almost as common in our vocabulary as certain phrases in
the Book of Common Prayer and are recited, forsooth, with
as little thought of their meaning.

What a lofty, unctuous statement it is! Just why should
people willing and anxious to work, starve ? And again, just
what might happen to the rest of us, we who are so far
removed from the condition ourselves, if the unemployed
were allowed to starve? To be sure, we have not let them
actually starve. But having made this platitudinous state-
ment of good will towards the unemployed often made
too, as we rose to speak before well-laden-banquet tables we
have, in many instances at least, looked for a way to reduce
them to the lowest possible subsistence. We have talked of
the possibility of feeding them in commissary fashion. We
have shouted to the Heavens to stop all work relief, that the
dole would be 40 percent cheaper. Yes, feed their bodies
to be sure, but away with this sentimental talk about sav-
ing pride and self-respect, about conserving moral and
spiritual values. And the blame for the deficits in our muni-
cipal, state and national budgets we pretty generally have



laid on the backs of the unemployed. The grumbling tax-
payer has blamed them for every new tax placed on his
income.

And what has been the one request, the one answer of
the average unemployed person to all of this as he has stood
about for hours, month after month, year after year, in this
and that work registration line? Just this, "Give me a job
by which I can earn my living, that's all I'm asking for."
"Did they give you a job?" asked a skeptical onlooker to
the first man out the doors of New York City's Emergency
Work Bureau in October 1930? "You're damn right they
gave me a job, going to work tomorrow morning." And
off he went, with a new stride in his walk and a new lift to
his chin. That would be the answer today of the great
majority on relief, were they given the chance to make it.
Yes, there would be some who could not so answer, the
sick, the shiftless, the broken broken in many cases by the
experience of the past six years. There are, of course, idlers
by choice among the poor as there are among the rich. My
plea is for relief methods that will be shaped to the large
group rather than to the small. I ask that the unemployed
be thought of as the victims rather than the culprits, if
culprits there are, of what has been called our industrial
collapse.

I WRITE these paragraphs at the close of a week during
which I have chosen to spend most of my time interview-
ing people in economic straits. Among them have been the
actually sick, the aged and, so far as I could judge, the
mentally incompetent. To them, relief, temporary or per-
manent, must be given, each in accordance with his need.
The value of the giving will be determined by the spirit
and the way in which the giving is done quite as much as
by the actual thing given, whether in terms of money, hos-
pital service, helpful counsel, or what not.

But the majority of those coming to me over the week
have seemed to me to present one and the same need, that
of a job by which the urgencies of life might be met. I know
of no good method of meeting that need except by telling
such persons where work may be had. Therein lies the rea-|
son for the continuation of the WPA, until "industry re-
vives and calls them back again."



Charity

By HELEN MAKING

Ten cents for veterans, ten cents for China;

A meal for a poet who needs to be fed.

Some milk in a saucer for a tom-cat prowler,

And crumbs for some sparrows for bounty has fled.

A dime for a cripple who panhandles aptly;
Perhaps he doesn't need it; well, anyway, who cares?
A bar of chocolate candy for an undernourished newsboy,
And a sandwich for old Bertha up the crooked stairs.
A Red Cross membership (a dollar is a fortune),
And postage for a scribbler -who needs to sell his wares.

Ten cents for veterans, ten cents for China ....
You can't buy lunch today, there was too much to do.
Tighten up your belt again (you have shared your fortune)
And fix the cardboard lining back into your shoe.



72



SURVEY MIDMONTHLY



"Oh, Those Social Workers!



By KATHRYN CLOSE



I



\\ ISH that social worker would. . . ."
"I wish that nurse wouldn't. . . ."
Not in big conferences do nurses or social work-
ers voice doubts that their professional relationship leaves
anything to be desired. The heads of the professional organi-
zations say firmly, "With good nurses and good social work-
ers who understand what they may expect from one another,
there is no difficulty whatsoever." "Hut," \ou put in some-
what timidly, "what has each a right to expect, profession-
ally, of the other, and what, precisely, is 'good'?"

Nursing and family case work agencies will give you the
answers in clear, reasoned statements of policies and proce-
dure- which in theory leave nothing more to be said. But
after theory comes practice, practice by nurses and case
workers who are as different each from the other as their
own lingerprints. So, when it comes to the day-to-day work-
ing of policies and procedures, to discovering what is back
of those off-the-record, regretful murmurs of "I wish she
would . . .," "I wish she wouldn't . . ." you must go to
those nurses and social workers who, in line of duty, climb
endless tenement stairs and meet each other across acute
situations of families in trouble.

When two human beings come together with a common
purpose in this instance the welfare of the family but
with sharply divergent backgrounds and training it would
be a miracle indeed if their relationships were always as



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 21 of 109)