Charles Richmond Henderson.

Modern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods online

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thropic man bears a greater share than the egoist, and the latter is
relieved at the expense of the former. And yet I do not hesitate to
say that the American custom in this matter is worthy of imitation.
The very fact that the public funds are at the disposal of the visitor
and helper, without restrictions, goes far toward discouraging private
charity, and makes a limitation rather than an extension of public

* Zeitschrift fiir das Armenwesen, April, 1903, p. 118.

* Article in American Journal of Sociology, already cited.



relief seem desirable in Germany. In this connection it should be
borne in mind that, as already pointed out above, the work of the
public relief does not differ in the least from that of private charities,
so far as the nature of the work is concerned ; the dollar of the one
looks exactly like the dollar of the other. The difference lies not in
the gift, but in the motive of the giver and in the attendant circum-
stances. For the commune, poor-relief is a legal duty, the exercise
of which readily leads the pauper to think he has a right to claim
assistance, although the law expressly denies any such right. The
recipient of a charity feels no debt of gratitude for the help he re-
ceives (except as he may be grateful for the manner in which the aid
is given) and that because the gift comes from the public fund.
Moreover, the visitor is likely to be more lavish in the expenditure
of public moneys than he would be with his own, or with those
entrusted to him by a limited number of friends. For this reason
assistance is more easily obtained, as a rule, from a public than from
a private charity; very often self-help is not urged as strongly as it
should be, and if the officers of public relief are not possessed of a
very strong sense of responsibility, or if the district management is
not very cautious and conservative, too great liberality may be the
direct means of producing and multiplying poverty. The experience
of every country and every age might be quoted to verify these state-
ments. We can now understand why it is that even in Germany,
where the system of public poor-relief has proved very successful,
there is a growing sentiment in favor of restricting public relief, in
the main, to such institutions as the workhouse, all else being left
to private charity. At present this is entirely impracticable. So
long as we do not insure widows and orphans against the loss
of husband or father, upon whom they depend for support, we can-
not think of abandoning them to the chance of private charity.
Then, too, the public care for the sick and infirm should not only be
maintained, but extended by every possible means. These things
offer very little opportunity for fraud or abuse, for their external
characteristics are far more easily recognized than a mere want of
the means of subsistence. Moreover, the misuse of accommodations
and arrangements for the sick is not so likely to work harm as is
fraud in the disposition of public moneys.

One thing must still be demanded on both sides of the Atlantic :
the respective provinces of public poor relief and of private charities




must be defined as clearly and as carefully as possible ; furthermore,
there must be established between the two a definite and well-ordered
relation. This is recognized, in Germany, as the aim and the goal
of relief work. To begin at the two extremes one might say : Es-
sentials, necessaries of life, are to be supplied by public charity, while
the furnishing of useful or unnecessary things, or even luxuries, shall
remain the province of private charities. How much shall be in-
cluded in the "essentials" must, of course, depend upon circum-
stances ; in regard to the necessity of animal food or of wearing shoes,
for instance, a small rural community will entertain opinions differing
widely from those held by the inhabitants of a large city, where bare-
foot children are not allowed in school and consequently the wearing
of shoes becomes a necessity. The establishing and maintaining of
institutions for the feeble-minded, the infirm, the deaf and dumb, the
blind, and orphans will also fall unquestionably within the province
of public charity, although even in Germany the care for the blind
and the deaf and dumb has been left largely to private philanthropy,
while private institutions very often relieve the state of the burden of
caring for orphans. At this point we find the connecting link be-
tween public and private charities, the public subsidies, which have
been developed to a considerable extent in Germany also, though not
so much as in America. Private institutions for the deaf and dumb
and the blind usually receive from the bureau of public charities cer-
tain appropriations which go far towards supporting the institutions.
Asylums for the aged, the feeble-minded, and children also receive
subsidies in the form of free use of public lands, etc. The demands
of Warner, — careful supervision of all subsidized institutions, regu-
lations in regard to admission and dismissal of such people as are
kept in any institution at public expense, and finally specific payment
for specific work, — are very judicious and proper.

To decide further than this what particular work shall be done
by public relief and what left to private charities, will always remain
a very difficult matter. In most cases it will be a question of actual
conditions : the one branch will have taken charge, to a greater or less
degree, of this or that department, from which the other branch will
then keep more or less aloof. In any case the commune should be
thoroughly familiar with such institutions as already exist, and should
carry on the extension of its own efforts accordingly. It is also very
desirable that the two branches arrive at some mutual understanding


and agreement as to who shall be entitled to aid, under what condi-
tion, etc. The constant annoyance occasioned by shameless impos-
ters, who now manage to secure duplicate or excessive allowances,
could be avoided by keeping a careful registration of all those who
receive aid and throwing the register open for the free use of all
interested. It is clear that in the work of establishing proper rela-
tions between public and private charity, the education of the benevo-
lent public will be one of the most important factors. What Warner
says in regard to the public poor-relief in America : "It is time for us
to stop bragging and humbly to take up the study of the science and
art of administration," may be applied equally as well to the majority
of the institutions of private charity in Germany. It is a plain fact
that a sort of strange sentimentality is exceedingly predominant; a
certain softness of heart which impels those whom it possesses to do
something for their unfortunate and suffering fellow-men, without,
however, trying to ascertain what is really needful to be done. Above
all else it is essential that we break completely with the notion that
poor-relief and philanthropy are in themselves meritorious. We must
teach and thoroughly convince everyone of the fact, that the first thing
necessary is to find out the causes of poverty, that those measures
which aim to set the poor and needy dependent on his feet again and
to make him independent are of far greater value than all the benefi-
cence in the world, however good its intentions. House owners who
make regular contributions to charitable societies must understand
clearly that they will be doing a great deal more for suffering human-
ity if they cease to rent poor and unhealthy dwellings ; employers
must learn the necessity of protecting their employes against danger-
ous and injurious occupations by suitable hours of work and such
other measures of precaution ; and all others must be made to com-
prehend the seemingly very simple truth that the possession of a
healthy body is worth more than the nursing of a sick one in the most
magnificent hospital. In other words : methods of poor-relief must
become a part of social science; its proper exercise can be understood
only by a comparative study of economic and social life. We know
that no social effort can or will succeed in making poor-relief and
philanthropy superfluous, within such a time as lies open to our
present vision. But relief work would no doubt be performed far
more thoroughly and more intelligently if those engaged in it could
know and realize that their work is to be for others, not for them-


selves. The essence of poor-relief is not the gratification of one's
self-esteem by giving alms, but the complete resignation, sacrifice of
self in the service of others.

In Germany as in other countries the evils of disconnected and
planless charitable acts have been keenly felt by private persons and
officers of relief. The modest poor, ashamed to beg, are overlooked ;
the bold beggar lives by mendicancy as his profession ; generosity is
discouraged by abuses and failures ; funds are wasted by duplication ;
pauperism runs out into vice and crime at the cost of individual and
public gifts.

The best writers are seeking to preserve the advantages of both
public and private charity by fixing upon a rational division of labor
between them and by constructing an agency for communication.
Public relief is expected to furnish what is indispensable, while pri-
vate charity may provide for that which is useful and desirable under
special conditions.

No method of centralized control of administration can be devised
which will not crush out private charity, which must be free if it
exists at all. But it is possible, though difficult, to communicate all
the information required for intelligent action, to keep central records
of all forms of relief, and to promote constant and systematic ex-
change of purpose and ideas among administrators. The basis of
enlightened treatment is adequate knowledge of the character and
situation of the destitute persons who are to be relieved. In a rural
neighborhood this is not difficult to secure, as it is in industrial and
commercial towns where rich and poor are separated geographically
and socially.

In certain cities, as in Kiel, Dortmund, Hanover and Elberfeld,
the municipal relief office exchanges lists with the more important
benevolent societies. In Dantsic the societies have a bureau of
records and the magistrates furnish the names of persons who receive
relief from the income of endowments. Since 1870 there has been
in Hamburg a regulation that all administrators of endowments send
to the central bureau copies of their records of gifts ; but for some
years the record was little used. Since 1895 a closer union with the
municipal relief department has been formed and information in
respect to public relief and endowed charities is recorded at a central
office. Full information from private societies was not included in
the plan because of the difficulty of bringing all into line. It was



soon found that the records of famiHes and persons assisted by the
pubHc bureau were very useful to private charity and they were fre-
quently drawn upon by benevolent persons. In 1896, for example,
information was given out for nearly 6,500 cases ; 2,276 to private
persons, 1,411 to societies, 1,797 to endowed charities, and 885 to
authorities. In Berlin in 1896 the requests answered were 2,936.

The German Society of Relief and Charity discussed this subject
in 1891, and since that time the movement has extended. Generally
the elifort is made to bring both public and private relief into coopera-
tion, as in Dresden, Frankfurt, Charlottenburg, Potsdam, Darmstadt,
Strassburg, Posen, Colmar, Gorlitz and elsewhere.

In Berlin the workers in various districts come together locally
for the consideration of common interests. The representatives of
of each society brings with him an account of each applicant cared for
and a record is made by the card system of all such matters. The
Jewish charities in Hamburg and Berlin have especially good arrange-
ments of this character. The discussion and comparison of views
and resources make it possible not only to prevent duplication of
gifts, but also to secure adequate and suitable relief according to the
ability and purpose of each agency.

It is very difficult, especially in the larger cities, to secure a com-
plete and reliable registration of all cases. One part of this difficulty
is technical and financial. The keeping of such a register involves
much trained labor, and the facts about names, residences, family
relations, and kind of relief are not easy to secure. By migration,
sickness and death, the record soon becomes inaccurate and must be
corrected. On the other hand the private societies are unwilling to
assist in furnishing copies of their records, either because they dis-
like to expose the names of the beneficiaries or because they are
afraid of losing their independence. The church parishes are partic-
ularly slow to cooperate with the public relief offices. It has been
found advisable to organize the bureau of information wherever a
few of the more important relief agencies are ready and not wait for
all to enter upon the arrangement. The advantages become so ob-
vious that all are likely to come in.

Breslau^ has sought to secure a central registration of dependents.
Between 1898 and 1901 the office had records of 66,771 cases ; but
43,000 of these were taken from the municipal records, while only

^Zeitschrift fur das Armenwesen, January, 1903, pp. 30-31.




8,149 cases came from endowed charities, societies and churches.
This illustrates the difficulty of inducing private societies to register
their cases. In the report of the Vereinigung der Wohlthatigkeits-
bestrebungen of Charlottenburg for 1902, the records furnished by
persons, associations and city relief department were 10,000 cases;
4,303 requests for information came in from various sources.

Information in respect to the agencies of relief is desirable, espe-
cially in cities. Benevolent persons wish to know where their gifts
may be most wisely made and what societies or officials will respond
to particular needs ; and destitute persons should not be obliged to
wander aimlessly from place to place in order to secure the help which
they require. In many cities this want is met by the publication of
directories more or less complete, containing lists of all available
resources of relief, public and private. The directory in Dresden is
quite satisfactory. In Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Liibeck, the lists
of endowed charities are officially published ; but, without detailed
instructions for use, these lists are not comprehensible. The city
office of Posen has published a carefully arranged descriptive list,
and the Ethical Culture Society of Berlin has printed an analytic and
explanatory catalogue of over 1,000 agencies of charity.

In order to act together, avoid at once duplication and neglect,
and to cooperate in a common plan after free exchange of views,
various efforts have been made in German cities to bring the repre-
sentatives of municipal relief and unofficial charity together.

Some of these organizations have aimed chiefly to break up the
social custom of indiscriminate almsgiving. Thus the Society to
Prevent Mendicancy in Berlin, in consideration of an annual pay-
ment, permits each member to affix a sign upon his door and send
the beggar to the office for investigation and relief. Similar arrange-
ments are found in Dresden, Dortmund, Bochum and elsewhere. It
seems to be difficult to maintain public interest in a society whose
aims are so negative ; and the more vigorous societies connect this
merely corrective and repressive function with more positive efforts
to relieve distress and build up the character of discouraged persons.
Thus in Leipsic the church charities and deaconess service have built
up a bureau of information which will assist individual givers in
placing their contributions to the best advantage.

In some localities there are legal regulations which secure coop-
eration ; as in some south German states where it is the law that the



parish clergyman and the parish physician shall belong to the relief
board. In certain communities the administrators of endowed char-
ities are legally related to the public office of relief.

In Dresden^ and Posen the authorities have arranged for confer-
ences with representatives of various relief associations ; views are
exchanged and policies are arranged by agreements. Many other
cities have made experiments in the same direction. There are
instances where the city gives a subsidy to private associations and
requires from them in return the observance of regulations and
permission of inspection.

The German Society of Relief and Charity {Der Deutsche Verein
fiir Armenpiiege und Wohlthdtigkeit) is the national conference of
charities, and it was established in 1880. The society meets each
year in a different city of the Empire. The proceedings are pub-
lished annually ; the contents being the printed papers and the steno-
graphically reported speeches upon them. In 1896 Dr. Miinsterberg
presented a general report which summarized the previous discus-
sions. While the society does not pretend to legal authority its dis-
cussions and resolutions have had considerable influence on legisla-
tion and on the administration of municipal relief.

Related organizations are the Central Committee for the Inner
Mission, the Central Bureau for Summer Care, the German Lodging-
house Society, the Union of German Stations for Help, the Central
Board of German Workmen Colonies, and the Union of Patriotic
Women's Societies. Germany is also represented in the Board and
Executive Committee of the International Congress of Public and
Private Assistance provided for at Paris in 1900, and which will
hold its next meeting in Milan in 1905.
F. Indoor Relief (in Institutions),

Since the facts relating to charitable institutions will be given
below under various heads, — as vagrants, medical relief, care of
defectives, etc., — it is necessary here merely to state the tendencies of
practice and opinion in Germany.

In general, the German urban charities depend far more on

^The Dresden Central Bureau reported for 1902 that it included the public
office of relief, 100 societies and institutions, and 24 churches. The royal family
sought for information at this office. Not less than 1,538,332 marks in volun-
tary gifts to the poor were reported, and greater use is made of the records of
the office every year.



personal acquaintance and influence to prevent the abuse of outdoor
relief than is the case in England or America. This method has
already been explained in giving an account of the "Elberfeld Sys-
tem." Instead of using an almshouse or workhouse as a test of
paupers, the numerous visitors depend on a judgment formed by
frequent and careful inspection and inquiry. The institution is not
employed for ordinary cases of destitution, especially when this would
result in breaking up a family, in preventing the bread-winners
from making the most of their earning power and reaching self-
support as speedily as possible. Rather will both public and private
benevolence seek to give occasional assistance in the home and labor
with the family to make it fully independent.

Institutional relief is reserved, as a rule, for persons who shun
industry, are dissolute, or drunken, and who require compulsion
under control to make them labor. Homes for the aged and feeble
who have no children or other relatives to care for them are regarded
with favor. Many of the sick are best treated in hospitals or sani-
taria. Defectives are sent to schools for training, to special hospitals
for care, or to custodial asylums for protection. Whenever rigid
control, oversight, or special medical treatment are required, then
indoor relief is preferred. That indoor relief is reserved for excep-
tional cases and outdoor relief preferred when it is available, is
shown in the evidence of Dr. Buehl. In the imperial statistics of
poor-relief in 1885, it was declared that 1,078,921 persons were
relieved at home and only 288,426 in institutions (80 and 20 per
cent, respectively).

The institutions care for three classes of dependents: (i) Those
paupers who are found to be drunken, loiterers, women with evil
repute, persons incapable of managing their home affairs; (2) the
feeble, aged, invalid, cripples, insane, feeble-minded, and others whose
infirmities require constant care; (3) respectable old persons who
can no longer work and require homes. (4) Related to indoor relief
is the placing of dependent children in suitable families, with a
modest payment for their board until they can earn their way. Some-
times a separate workhouse is provided for the first class and special
asylums for the others ; but very frequently all classes are found
under the same management, with more or less attempt at classifica-
tion. About one-half the institutions receive persons who pay for


their board and care at least part of the cost, the rate being usually
from .80 to 1.50 marks per day, but in some cases much more.

It is said that the chief causes given for the reception of paupers
into institutions are infancy, invalidism, weakness of old age, crippled
condition, homelessness, insanity, inebriety, tuberculosis, epilepsy,
blindness, shirking labor and desertion. The statistics indicate that
drunkenness is a cause much more frequently in North Germany than
in South Germany.

The inmate is received usually on the advice of the poor-relief
authority, the superintendent being authorized to receive paupers in
cases of emergency. The pauper, if capable of work, may generally
be discharged on his own application. If he is insane or drunken,
the rule is that he can be held forcibly only by appointing a guardian
or by appeal to the police on the ground that his liberty would en-
danger public order.

The general direction of the institution is usually in the hands of
a board in which the unpaid service of "honor officers" is an element.
This board makes regulations and decides questions of principle.
The immediate administration rests with a superintendent who re-
ceives a salary and is responsible to the board. This superintendent
is trained for his work and secure of his position while he is faithful
and efficient, — his "political" opinions having nothing to do with
appointment or discharge. Where there are many insane and men-
tally defective inmates, a physician is sometimes chosen as director
of the larger establishments ; and in all cases medical treatment is

In about one-half the institutions trained nurses and attendants
are employed, often only for care of the sick, epileptics, idiots, etc.,
while in the others, chiefly workhouses and asylums for the aged,
the service is performed by the stronger inmates, under the direction
of officers. In many institutions the inmates are made nurses. It
is said that inebriates, who could not control their appetites without
the restraints of the house order, often make good nurses.

Naturally, the regulations of a poorhouse require a certain
restriction of individual liberty and a uniformity of life. The sexes
are separated, although in about one-third of the institutions aged
couples are permitted to live together. Yet, as a matter of fact, there
are few couples who desire to live together. For a limited number
of respectable old people, separation is a great hardship, and for



these special arrangements are recommended and in some cities sup-

The regulations usually require labor of all who can perform it ;
and in the workhouses proper the day's work is nine to twelve hours.
Visitors are admitted under careful restrictions, and in the work-
houses only at fixed times and by permission of the superintendent.
Ordinarily the inmates are expected or even required to attend the
religious services, and the opportunity of celebrating the sacraments
is frequently given. Occasionally the rules require an inspection of
the correspondence of inmates. Complaints of inmates may be laid
before the director or the board.

The disciplinary measures vary with the character of the popu-
lation. In case of invalids the infractions of house rules are cor-
rected by reproofs, withdrawal of permission to go out, or to receive

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonModern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods → online text (page 5 of 73)