Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

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them is apt to be one of duplicity and greed, of scheming and
plotting to make an impression of distress and helplessness, so as
to secure as large a share of the fund as possible.

4. Emergency Relief. — The Charity Organization Society is
obliged to secure immediate help for those who are in distress.

The Charity Organization Society. 157

The public conscience and heart will not and ought not to sup-
port a society which neglects acute suffering pending an investiga-
tion. In this situation the agents and visitors must be empowered
to give relief with promise of reimbursement, or there must be a
small fund at hand or credit for supplies, which can be used to
temporarily mitigate suffering. There is a constant temptation to
enlarge the scope of this emergency relief until it swallows up the
deeper work of the society ; but that is a danger which must be
risked, unless some relief society is ready to make instant response
to the most urgent calls for assistance.

5. Charity Organization is a Central Organ of Cooperation
among Philanthropic Agencies. — This is sometimes claimed to
be the characteristic which distinguishes this movement from all
relief societies. While in this chapter emphasis is placed on a
different aspect of the work, it is admitted that cooperation is
an essential means of attaining the characteristic ends of Charity

Each city should provide a central bureau for the collection
and orderly registration of information about individual cases of
dependent families and persons. Impostors and professional beg-
gars are generally soon known to the central office and are regis-
tered there. Neglected persons in real distress, those who would
not be found by institutions and are ignorant of the charitable re-
sources of the city, become known to visitors who move about in
the neighborhoods where poverty abounds. Such persons need
to make but one application ; they are not cruelly compelled to
go from door to door as beggars, exposing their shame and re-
opening the wounds of misery, and repulsed with impostors, as if
they were all alike liars and parasites. One investigation, thor-
oughly made and recorded, is enough for all givers and for all
societies in the city.

Benevolent persons are found everywhere ready to give at least
a modest sum if they are sure that there is somewhere a rehable
knowledge of the situation of the applicant. The central office
can always direct such kind impulses to their appropriate objects.

158 Relief and Care of Dependents.

Railroad companies have been very generous in giving trans-
portation to the poor who seek shelter with friends or employ-
ment in a new place. But their liberality is frequently abused
and becomes the cause of vagabondage. The officers of the cor-
porations have no time or training for investigation, and they are
finding that the records and investigations of a central bureau are
far more exact and reliable than any investigation of their own.

Churches, always recognized as centres of sympathy and charity, are more
likely than other organizations to become points of attack by those seeking
charity. The Charity Organization Society has been found a satisfactory
medium of interchange, by which persons in need can be brought into relations
with the proper churches, while the churches are relieved of certain burdens
not properly theirs, and are saved from injustice as well (E. P. Bicknell).

The independence and autonomy of each cooperating society
are preserved intact and sacred. The cooperation is entirely
voluntary and based on information, advice, and common ideals,
and is not forced by legal pressure or penalties. Individuals after
receiving the information from the office are still at hberty to com-
mit folhes if they wish to do so, but the temptation is diminished.

The benevolent pubHc is sorely in need of an independent
source of impartial information about benevolent societies and
their solicitors. It is slow to trust the statements of interested
parties. Gross deception and misdirection of funds have often
bitterly disappointed generous men and closed their purses against
proper appeals. New needs arise with the growth of cities, and
specialization is demanded by growing complexity of wants.
Charity Organization, being ever busy with broad surveys of the
entire field, not only helps to suppress dupHcating and unneces-
sary institutions, but to direct attention upon neglected portions
of the field. It is also the most suitable body for editing the
local directory of charities, independent, rehable, and impartial,
for the instruction of the charitable.

6. An Important Function of Charity Organization is Educa-
tion of the Community in the science and art of charity. Charity

The Charity Organization Society. 159

is becoming reflective, systematic, eager to discover general prin-
ciples, to reach causes, and to deal methodically with situations.
That which can be systematically studied can be taught, and such
instruction has a deep influence and a wide power. Mixed audi-
ences, however, can be more easily interested in general principles
as they are used to throw hght on concrete local problems. Edu-
cational work is carried on by annual and special reports, by tracts
and papers, by articles in newspapers and religious journals, by
conferences, addresses, and sermons in churches.

7. Expert Advice to Public Officials. — It is frequently desir-
able to present specific measures affecting the poor to public and
official bodies, and that in such a way as to show that back of the
recommendation are well-known and responsible persons. The
council, mayor, and administrative officers of city governments
can frequently assist in regulating evils which injure the poor and
tend to depress them. Ordinances affecting public sanitation,
access to parks and water fronts, playgrounds, baths, may be
necessary to prevent disease and weakness. Cooperation with the
pohce authorities is necessary in dealing with mendicants, tramps,
and wayward children. The superintendents of schools are able
to foster schemes of thrift, savings banks, and kindred devices.
The state legislature must, at every session, consider amendments
and additions to the legal provisions or regulations of charity.
These and many other matters can most effectively be brought to
the attention of authorities by the responsible officers of a society
which represents wealth, culture, and devotion to the true inter-
ests of the very poor.

8. Organization of Self-help. — Provident charity is in the high-
est rank and requires the noble quahties of patience, wisdom,
and inventiveness. The Charity Organization Society may foster
self-help by estabhshing agencies of its own and also by making
use of those already in existence. Examples may be cited to indi-
cate the wealth of opportunities in this field.

The "vegetable garden," sometimes jocularly called the " Pin-
gree Potato Patch," is a method of utihzing waste land in cities or

i6o Relief and Care of Dependents.

their suburbs by setting to work upon it families who are perilously
near dependence.

Kindred arrangements are the penny savings bank, the provi-
dent dispensary and hospital, building and loan associations, pawn-
ers' societies or provident loan associations, country outings, coal
clubs, workshops for women.

The laundry training school has been found useful. " If a
woman has fair inteUigence, physical strength, and is wilHng to learn,
she can, under progressive teaching, acquire skill in laundry work.
If a woman becomes skilled in fine washing and ironing, and also
becomes conscientious in her work, she takes rank among the
first-class operators, and she need never to be without employ-
ment, if well. This benefit bestowed upon a penniless woman by
such a transformation of her hfe, signifies to her, not only money
gain, but the uplifting of character incident to self-reliance and
independence" (New York Report, 1900).

Workrooms for unskilled women have been kept open in several
cities as a means of giving aid in return for work, such as plain
sewing, mending, washing, and rug-making. Habits of cleanliness
are promoted ; the value of the bath is proved by experiments ;
and the women are gradually improved in skill, earning power,
and self-reliance.

9. Personal Ministration ; the principle of friendly visiting.
One of the characteristic elements in Charity Organization work at
its best is the factor of friendly visiting and personal service. We
may almost measure the degree in which the movement is under-
stood and appreciated in a community by the extent and efficiency
of this branch. Both men and women are needed for this service,
and its beneficent agency would continue to be socially useful
even if there ceased to be a need of material relief in any family
of the community.

Forms of Personal Service. — This subject has been so finely
treated in the book on Friendly Visiting by Miss Mary E. Rich-
mond that no person who aspires to be a friendly visitor can afford
to be without her manual. In a thousand ways one whose eyes

The Charity Organization Society. i6i

and heart are open can discover better ways of helping the poor
than by distributing among them food and clothing. A few illus-
trations may be given, although experience will suggest to wise
workers the most suitable schemes and devices.

The fundamental condition of escaping from pauperism is good
health and bodily vigor. An intelHgent and tactful visitor can
assist, by means direct and indirect, in promoting the conditions
of industrial efficiency. He can study works on hygiene and sani-
tation, become acquainted with the local means of medical re-
lief, protection against nuisances, laws of landlord and tenant,
boards of health, and all other available means of help. The
knowledge thus obtained can be imparted to the family visited
and to the neighborhood, by conversation, printed circulars, illus-
trated books, and lectures. Life in a crowded city is maintained
only at the price of constant vigilance and unwearied effort and
general cooperation between persons of all classes. The visitor
can gradually bring to the attention of the family such specific
dangers as decaying garbage, damp cellars, unlighted corners,
ill-ventilated and dark rooms, accumulated filth, patent medicine
frauds, premature work and strain of convalescents, exposure to
consumption, typhoid fever, and other communicable diseases.
The visitor must become a walking encyclopedia of knowledge
about nutritious and economical foods, hygienic dress, the best
fuel and stoves, and must also be an electric storage battery of
cheerfulness, courage, hope, and inspiring sympathy, with all these
resources on draft as required by the neighbors.

It would be well for the visitor to learn the art of feeding and
caring for infants, to know the agencies for giving children out-
ings to the country ; the factory laws which regulate or forbid the
employment of children under unfavorable conditions ; the marks
of defective hearing, eyesight, and nervous action ; with informa-
tion as to medical aid.

Equally essential to well being and rescue from degeneration
are the economic habits of the family. The visitor must be
acquainted with the man of the household, become interested

1 62 Relief and Care of Dependents.

with him in local politics, trade unions, and benefit societies ; assist
him to information about the labor-market, the best ways of borrow-
ing in hours of urgent need of credit, and the most secure ways of
investing surplus savings. Even if the man is a drunkard, a visitor
may cooperate with wife, children, neighbors, priest, or pastor to
restore him to respect and self-control.

The amusements and recreations of the family have important
bearings on health, economic prosperity, and education. The
visitor may teach the children the difficult art of amusing them-
selves in a civilized fashion and draw the weary and dull parents
into the happy circle.

The visitor can become the ally of the public school teacher
and the truant officers. Aid should be given or recommended
only on condition that the father work, and the children be kept
in school. The visitor may become the guide, philosopher, and
friend of a group of children in relation to the vast stores of
wealth in the public library, or may set up a small home library
as the centre of her educational operations for a neighborhood.
He can move lawyers and pohce officials to remove begging chil-
dren from the street, and then ply them with influences which
may transform them into good citizens. He can select reading,
lend photographs of great pictures, awaken love for music, offer
prizes for flower culture, and become in a limited field of the city
a missionary of all that is true, beautiful, and good. His example
will become contagious, and his happy success will forward the
movement to cover the entire urban territory with a closely con-
nected and cooperating series of uplifting personal influences.

The visitor must not be a proselyter ; but the church is a natu-
ral association, akin to family and state ; and religion is a universal
human need, as bread and light are. The visitor seeks to establish
and foster normal relations with family, industry, school, law, bene-
fit club, lodge, libraries, and also with the church to which the
person is most naturally drawn. Most of the visitors will be
drawn from the churches, because in those organizations the
inspiring sanctions of religion awaken and sustain the sense of

The Charity Organization Society. 163

social obligation toward those who are in any kind of trouble.
The Man of Sorrows is every Sunday held up before the people to
enlist not merely pity, but beneficent service.

The visitor has here been spoken of as a man. As a matter of
fact most friendly visitors are women ; but it is desirable to empha-
size the truth that men also owe a duty in this field, and that their
help is indispensable in many situations. Friendly visiting is
practicable and not visionary. Those who have witnessed the
debasing effects of merely material doles, and have maintained
their courage and hope, their faith in the power of kindness, and
their genuine sympathy, will be willing to consider certain large
facts and lessons of actual experience.

We believe in friendly visiting because it follows the method
and principle of pastoral visiting, to which, as much as to preach-
ing, is due the growth, power, and influence of the church in all
past ages and in all lands. All successful pastors believe in this
principle of personal influence apart from the bribes of material
alms. Multitudes of persons are inspired, comforted, cheered,
strengthened by this personal ministration, who would be insulted
and injured by the least suggestion of almsgiving. Rich and poor
alike need and appreciate, at least in critical hours, the aid of a
superior and consoling presence in the home.

We believe in the value of friendly visiting because daily experi-
ence in social intercourse illustrates and demonstrates its worth.
Wherever friend helps friend by a timely call, a hopeful and wise
word, there the principle of personal service is confirmed by facts.

We believe in friendly visiting, because it is often the only
redeeming feature in ordinary relief work, and has actually pre-
vented the worst consequences of giving unearned means of

The essential factor in the famous parish system of Thomas
Chalmers was the friendly visitor, and the notable success of that
system makes it stand out as one of the moral triumphs of the
past century, the revelation of a law of social progress as certain
as the law of gravity in physics.

164 Relief and Care of Dependents.

The success of Chalmers in Scotland was distinctly one cause
of the adoption of friendly visiting in the renowned municipal
charity systems in the German Empire during the past fifty years.
The best governed cities in the world, managed by officials of
university and technical training, have made this principle an
organic and vital part of their administration. And the very fact
that thousands of intelligent persons are made familiar with the
needs and miseries of the poor helps us to account for the fact
that humane legislation for working-men has been more rapidly
advanced there than in any other country.

We believe in friendly visiting because our Charity Organization
records show that thousands of families who once walked in the ways
of pauperism, vice, and crime have been attracted away from those
dark and dangerous paths, and have become industrious, indepen-
dent, upright, with ample resources for a worthy human existence.

Coming from a city official, a cool man of science, and a busi-
ness-like manager of clerks, records, machinery, and routine, the
following thoughts of Dr. E. Muensterberg are weighty with
authority, as they glow with the fervor of idealism and faith.
*'The majority of the well-to-do see in the poor man an exceptional,
alien, and, occasionally, a dangerous phenomenon, which must be
got rid of as well as possible by means of alms. . . . The sepa-
ration of classes comes from lack of reflection, or knowledge, or
good will. . . . Only in the living union of members of a com-
munity, such as was seen in the oldest Christian societies, and in
some cases in later times, is the chasm filled ; for it is not wealth,
but faith and love which unite men, and these know not the dif-
ferences which are of purely human convention. Readiness to
help others as one helps himself is the living force, with the same
means and the same love. And from whatever side we consider
the relation of giver and recipient, we do not ask for change of
human capacities and qualities ; we simply demand that men see
in the needy person a fellow human being who has the same dis-
positions and needs as our own." In the Elberfeld Poor Statutes
it is said : " The offices of district overseer and visitor are among

The Charity Organization Society. 165

the most important civil honor offices, and a worthy performance of
their duties demands a great measure of active neighbor love and
an earnest sense of justice : love, in order to hear the poor with
benevolence and friendliness ; and zeal to reject unfair claims."

The Hamburg statutes say : " The visitor is the immediate
organ of poor relief; on his activity hangs the welfare or misery
of the needy, as also the social and moral value of our system of
rehef. He must be the truest friend and counsellor of the
poor. ... He must know the poor as his own family, their
dwellings as his own house."

Fancy such directions as these given to the salaried inspectors
and relieving officers of English and especially of American city
systems ! With the best good will they could never approach the
demand made on German visitors. " He who will help must think
that he is caring for himself, for his own flesh and blood. He
must seek to place himself precisely in the position of the person
he would aid, in order to apply the very means which are suitable.
In this there is no difference between public reUef and private
charity. As public has grown out of private charity, and as both
continue to come in contact on the boundaries of their particular
fields, so is the work essentially the same in both. They differ
only in means and agencies."

Some concrete examples of the methods and influence of per-
sonal ministration may here be cited from the Twenty-first Annual
Report of the Associated Charities of Boston : —

Ten years ago one of our visitors made her first call upon the family whose
story is here given. She found five untidy children, the father just recovering
from a broken leg, and the ailing mother with a sickly small baby, regarded as
the bringer of the family's recent bad luck. A leaky stove hardly warmed
their two badly kept rooms, and was of no use at all for baking. So the family
lived on baker's bread, bacon, and other unsuitable and comparatively expen-
sive foods. The gift of a new stove procured by the Conference made a
pleasant opportunity for the visitor to show the mother how to cook better
and cheaper food; she also taught her to cut and fit clothes for her family.
The visitor commended frequently greater tidiness in children or rooms, and
suggested or supplied little additions to the rooms when new ones were taken,

1 66 Relief and Care of Dependents.

until gradually conditions brightened. The health of all improved, and the
family finances as well. The visitor showed how much cheaper it was to save
money and buy a carpet for cash than to buy on the instalment plan, as the
mother had wished; and this experiment led to the purchase of all the house-
hold goods for cash, and eventually to the purchase of the house itself.

Here is another instance of what can be done by patience, tact, faith, and

A friend undertook to visit a family in which both the man and the woman
had the reputation of drinking.

The visitor found, however, that the man did not drink, that he was a good
worker, and that the trouble lay entirely with the woman. The latter had a
strong desire to keep up appearances, and was so successful that for some time
after our friend's visits began rooms and children were clean, and the woman
invariably cordial. But later our visitor and the woman became sufficiently
intimate for the latter to pour out her tale of misery, with the result that she
went to the Home for Intemperate Women. At the end of three weeks she
asserted that she had learnt her lesson, she should never drink again, but
would make a good home for her family ; and at last accounts she was con-
tinuing to do well, resolved to redeem her past.

Then, here is another case where the devil of drink has been cast out, for
some time at least.

There was a man with a wife and three children who had been aided more
than once on account of destitution caused by the man's drinking. The man
could earn good wages, but lost his place repeatedly through drink, even
taking the money for his wife's medicine for that purpose. The visitor met
the man in the street one day, looking particularly miserable, and took him
into a restaurant for a good square meal, as, when the man drank, the wife
punished him by giving him no food; and lack of nourishing food was an
incentive to drink again. Next he persuaded him to join the temperance
society of his church, where a fellow-member undertook to watch over him.
When the man got work, the family moved into more healthy rooms; he has
stopped drinking, and remained steady now for a year and more, is earning
regular though not high wages, is paying off old debts, taking his children on
occasional outings, and constantly feels that the support of his visitor is his

A case where a little investigation resulted immediately in benefits to the
family is that of a woman who applied to one of our agents for help for her-
self, sick husband, and two children. The relief society which had helped
before reported that the man was a hopeless drunkard for whom it was useless
to do anything. Our agent found that the man had been a carpenter on a
Southern ranch, and wrote to his employers there. They needed his services,

The Charity Organization Society, 167

and sent money for his ticket back. It was rheumatism which, in the cHmate
of Boston, kept him from working and drove him to drink. Since returning
South he has worked steadily on the ranch, comfortably supporting his family,
who remain here.

An Irish couple with two young children. Here the outlook was not
especially promising, yet by constant and tactful visiting since early in 1898
excellent results have been accomplished. The man, formerly a 'longshoreman,
had lung trouble, and was unable to do hard work. The visitor secured
admission for the oldest child to the day nursery, and found the woman work,
which she soon lost through inefficiency. Again the visitor secured work for
the woman and light outdoor work for the man, who has greatly improved in
health. The next step was to induce the family to leave their wretched
quarters for a more homelike place, and this was accomplished. Back debts
have been paid, a new stove is gradually being paid for, and they are now
receiving practically no help.

It need not discourage a society if the number of friendly
visitors is not very great, provided that personal service be
secured and directed to useful ends under other names. A dis-
trict committee, for example, may apparently have only a few who
profess and call themselves " friendly visitors " ; yet they may be

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 14 of 35)