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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80-84, law of July 30, 1881, relating to public safety). Begging in
public streets and places is forbidden where relief stations are pro-
vided ; where these are lacking or inadequate the local board shall
give the poor persons certificates that they are unable to work and
shall provide for them in a suitable way. The state, in case the com-
mune of settlement is unable to carry the burden without increasing
its tax levy unduly, agrees to supply the means. Hospitals which
receive the sick, and other benevolent institutions without special ob-
jects, are treated as relief stations.

Relief of Aliens. — The cost of relief of foreigners is at the charge
of the state. Generally this matter is the subject of treaties calling
for reciprocity in this matter. Treaties existed in 1901 between Italy
and Austria-Hungary, Germany (1873), Belgium (1880), Spain
(1897). Without such express treaty stipulations an understanding
to the same effect exists between Italy and France, Switzerland and

Results of the Legislation of i8po and of Recent Administration.
— It is not possible to form a very exact judgment, even if one studies
the situation in Italy, because the data are imperfectly reported. This
defect of reports is itself a proof that the purpose of the law has not
been satisfactorily attained. Whether it can be attained without
serious changes in the law itself remains to be seen. Certain very
well informed experts express this judgment : that the poor law of
Italy was drawn up after the most scientific and comprehensive inves-
tigation ; that its provisions were admirably adapted to Italian condi-


tions ; that ample means were provided, although they were not
equally distributed nor economically administered ; and that the cause
of complaints, so far as justified, lies in the lack of a sufficient number
of competent administrators.^

Italian Criticisms of the Law of i8po. — On the liberal side there
are conservative men who think the law went too far in subjecting
all the forms of charity to state control. They fear that private char-
ity will be discouraged if it is left little freedom of choice as to object
and method.

The admission of women to the councils of charity is opposed by
some writers on the ground that women have not the experience and
training which are necessary to fit one for dealing with affairs of
business, politics and legal opinions.

While the clerical party sometimes affirm that clergymen were
excluded from the councils on account of secularist prejudice, there
are conservative men who explain the exclusion by declaring that the
duties of ministers of religion are inconsistent with the administration
of affairs which frequently involve debate and litigation.^

The exclusion of clergymen from the charity councils is given as
a cause, in many instances, of their failure to perform the task of such
bodies with efficiency, since in many of the small and rural communes
the priest is the most competent and reliable adviser of the poor and
of their friends.^

In 1 90 1 Miinsterberg repeated his remark of 1898 (and Reitzen-
stein's remark of 1895), that the provisions in the law of 1890 in rela-
tion to combination (conccntramento) were merely on paper, and that
little use was made of them in practice. Certainly, by the testimony
of Italian experts, there has been much delay and neglect in enforce-
ment of these parts of the law. The obstructing causes seem to be
such as those mentioned by De Martino in the Chamber of Deputies,
December 17, 1900: indolence of local boards, opposition of members
of small trusts, antagonism of the clergy to a law which excluded
them in great part from participation in administration, inactivity of
higher boards, financial straits of the state and political plots. The
local authorities decline to send in reports as required by the law.
The Ministry remains ignorant of the degree to which the law is car-

* Article in Zeitschrift fiir das Armenwesen, March, 1903, p. 70.

* See Q. Querini, La Beneficenza Romana, p. 425 fF.

^ G. Saredo, Codice della Beneficenza Pubblica, pp. xvi-xvii.


ried out. Combination {conccntramcnto) , rearrangement (raggrnp-
pamento) and transformation {trasformasione) were applied in 6,190
reported instances involving a total income of 6,600,000 lire, over
against trusts with an income of 135 million lire. The central gov-
ernment itself sought to avoid carrying the law into effect and endeav-
ored to escape certain financial burdens which it imposed. De Mar-
tino expressed the judgment that the optional feature of the law was
an error ; that a compulsory law should be put in its place ; and that
transformation should be required within a specified time. He pro-
posed the erection of a special bureau of the Ministry of the Interior
(dire::io}ie gencrale dclla pubblica heneficenza') with three divisions:
for poor relief, instruction and medical relief ; and the erection of one
or more istitiiti di pitbblico soccorso in each province, which should
administer charity funds, while the Boards of Charity should remain
the organs of local administration. A bill was drawn up embodying
these ideas. ^

Expenditures of Income. — In 1880 it was stated that the total sum
of funds in the kingdom^ was 1,716,481,592 lire, belonging to the
opere pie ; in the period up to 1899 (20 years) 312 million lire were
added, a proof that benevolence is vital and energetic in Italy. But
valuable as the statistics are, we need still to learn more of the con-
dition of inmates of institutions, the success of the treatment, the
relative numbers of persons assisted out of the total population, and
a comparison with the figures of former years.

The statistics do tell us that between 1880-1897, 18,705 gifts were
registered for benevolent purposes, of which 1,207 ^^^^ to new estab-
lishments, while the remainder were given to already existing funds.

^ See Rivista della Beneficenza, 1900, p. 807, 1899, p. ZZ7- Paper by E. Stiatti
in Riv. Ben. Pubb., March, 1903, pp. 176-184. Zeit. f. d. Armenwesen, Aug., 1904.

The most recent available statistics show that combination has been obligatory
in the case of 6,691 opere pie with a collective income of 4,527,000 lire ; although
only 5,475 of these, with their income of 3,329,000 lire, have actually been sub-
jected to the process; while 1,216, with an income of 1,288,000 lire, remain.
Rearrangement {raggrupp anient o) has been applied to 331 endowments, with their
income of 6,400,000 lire, while 151 endowments, with 1,255,000 lire, remain un-
affected. Transformation {trasformazione) was applied to 1,208 establishments,
with 1,238,000 lire. Up to December 31, 1903, revision has been applied to
statutes in 3,692 cases, involving 5,577 establishments.

* G. Saredo, Codice Beneficenza Pubblica, p. xlix. Annuario Statistico Italiano,
1900, pp. 142 seq.



A very large number (3,972) of small contributions were made to
objects of worship and benevolence, while the large gifts went gen-
erally to hospitals and orphanages. The northern and middle prov-
inces have the largest funds : Lombardy, 70,000,000 lire ; Piedmont,
56,000,000 ; Liguria, 39,000,000 ; while Calabria and Abruzzi had
only 1,200,000 and Sardinia 1,800,000 lire.

Hospitals have 80,000,000 lire ; orphanages, 56,000,000 ; local char-
ities, 18,000,000; instruction, 2,500,000; establishments for rachitis
and scrofulous children, 2,300,000 ; seaside resorts, 1,600,000 lire. The
figures show a growth in popular intelligence in relation to modern
methods of relief: in 1880 the establishments for rachitic children
had a property of only 211,236 lire, and the sanatoria for children
were not mentioned in the statistics. Infant asylums, having 723,507
lire in 1897, possess more property by 220,000 lire than in 1880. On
the whole, no form of charity is entirely neglected.

The statistics of hospitals, which name includes not only institu-
tions lor the sick, but also other forms of indoor relief, divide the
institutions into 16 classes, and the medical institutions, hospitals for
the insane, orphanages, work-houses, lying-in hospitals, institutions
for the feeble-minded, blind and deaf are distinguished in the usual
way. In all, 3,188 institutions were counted, of which 464 serve
more than one purpose, and in which on Jan. i, 1898, there were
272,615 persons, of whom 128,309 were male and 144,576 were
female; in the course of the year there were added 538,440, while
536,207 persons went out, — 70,221 discharged by death, — so that
on Jan. i, 279,848 (129,576 males and 145,272 females) remained.

The burdens of administrative costs are very significant in rela-
tion to the charity funds. Thus payment must sometimes be made
out of these funds for acts of worship and various ceremonies ; 70
per cent, of the burdens of cost are paid out for this purpose, while
the remainder goes to life annuities, etc. The rate for such costs
varies between 5, 8, and 10.3 per cent, of the total income, — in Sicily
being as high as 15 per cent. Other costs vary from 15-20 per cent.,
while the administrative expenses proper vary from 16-21 per cent.
Therefore the entire deduction which must be made before the relief
fund is reached amounts to 40-45 per cent, of the income, with excep-
tions above and below. It is worthy of note that in Piedmont these
deductions are only 32.5 per cent., of which only 12.03 per cent, go to
expenses of administration. It is evident that these expenses are ex-



cessive, and it is said by well-informed persons that there are many
sinecure positions connected with the charity trusts, and that those
who occupy them naturally oppose any form of consolidation which
might create vacancies and abolish their useless offices. The subor-
dinate officers and clerks seem to be poorly paid. Recently a move-
ment has been started to place the employes of the opere pie on an
equal footing with the officers of state and communes. In order to
make an impression on the government, a meeting of delegates of
these officers took place in the early part of the year 1901 and planned
an agitation.

In connection with the expenditures upon ceremonies one must
mention the brotherhoods which take some part in the charitable
work, but for the most part are devoted to ritual. So far as they
engage in charity they are subject to the law of 1890. In Italy they
number 10,644 and they possess a property worth 179,000,000 lire,
which yields an annual income of 9,400,000 lire, from which 1,700,000
lire go to administrative expenses (18 per cent.), while 5,000,000 (75
per cent, go to ceremonies, and 1,700,000 to charity. Generally these
are small associations with about 500 lire annual income.

For several decades there has been a growing tendency to reduce
the amounts used for ceremonies and ritual observances and to devote
as much as the law would permit to relief of the indigent. Wealthy
laymen and taxpayers naturally wish to diminish the burden of relief
which falls upon them and secular influence upon administration is
increasing. Perhaps there is less faith in the beneficent efifects of
ceremonies and more in substantial relief of pressing wants of the
poor. State supervision also has the effect of keeping the accounts
separate and of insuring the proper direction of charitable donations.^

C. Private Charity. — In a certain sense very much of the relief
we have already considered comes from private sources ; but the
endowments have become so vast that they are now being combined
into a system and are legally called "public beneficence." We must
therefore confine our study at this point to individual and associated
benevolence and also reserve for special consideration that charity
which is conducted by ecclesiastical agencies, parochial and others.

Private Charity Associations. — The report of the Paris jury in
1900 says of the society named "La Croce Verde," founded at Lucca

^ See Atti della commissione reale sulle opere pie, Vol. V, p. 5, Rome, 1887.


in 1893 : "Up to recent years all the charity of Lucca was administered
by certain powerful religious brotherhoods with a degree of partiality
worthy of past ages. Some young people desired to see the exercise
of the virtue of benevolence free from divisions and hatred in the
ancient Tuscan city. At first the society encountered hostility, open
or covert, but has succeeded in securing a firm place. It succors all
forms of distress without distinction of creed or nationality." The
annual income is about 7,000 to 8,000 lire. Honorable mention was
made of the society of public relief of Spezia (Genes), founded in

Italian Benevolent Society at Paris. — The colony of Italians in
France organized in 1865 a society for the relief of their countrymen
who meet misfortune far from home. It gives aid in money, orders
for bread, meat, milk and medicines. It supports a dispensary and
provides physicians for poor Italians In each of 20 arrondissements of
Paris. In 1899 it aided 1.739 persons at an expense of 36,437 lire.
On Dec. 31, 1899, the society had a productive endowment of 667,175
lire. Gifts and legacies are invested, with the exception of those
given for immediate needs.

An interesting method of raising funds for a charity has been
used at Rome and Milan, — the collection of waste and its sale for the
object of benevolence. Bones, paper, rags, etc., are systematically
gathered, sorted and put into condition for marketing. This reminds
one of the "salvage corps" of the Salvation Army and of similar
devices. The rejected articles are saved as a means of saving de-
linquent children.^

D. Ecclesiastical Charity. — The essential features of eccle-
siastical charity are treated under other heads.

E. Co-operation, Conferences, etc. — Many important confer-
ences have been held in Italy for the discussion of charity topics, that
at Venice in October, 1900, being specially worthy of mention.
Others have been held at Bologna, Florence, Genoa and Turin. The
Rivista della BeneHcenza treats all these subjects with vigor and in-

The International Congress of Public and Private Assistance will
be held in Milan in September, 1905, and the subjects selected for dis-
cussion will naturally and properly be closely related to the problems

^ Riv. Ben. Pubb., 1903, p. 88-95,



most interesting in Italy. But since these problems are in their essen-
tial elements precisely those which concern all civilized countries, the
discussion will by no means be narrow and local.

The Charity Council (la Congrcgazionc di Carita) of a city is
easily transformed into a central bureau for the organization of urban
philanthropies. For example, the Charity Council of Florence,
founded at first upon the basis of the law of 1862, and made a corpo-
ration after the enactment of the law of 1890, brought under a single
administration 36 different charitable funds, and, in 1900, had a cap-
ital of more than 9,000,000 lire. The objects for which the funds are
set apart are of varied character : aid to infants, payments to nurses,
care of the sick, surgical appliances, furniture for poor families,
clothing, food, and employment for the able-bodied. The central
administration is aided by committees, reinforced by sections of
workers in the various parishes of the city.

La Societa Umanitaria at Milan has proposed the introduction of
a central organization similar to the English and American Charity
Organization Societies, and the argument reveals the same difficulties
of conflict, duplication and defect which are found elsewhere. On
the other hand, leading writers think a better way to correct these
evils w^ould be to improve the Congregazione di Carita, which is al-
ready loyally recognized and is adapted to Italian conditions.^

F. Indoor Relief. — The number of institutions in Italy is very
great, yet there is a serious lack of provision for almshouses for the
feeble and of suitable workhouses to test and help able-bodied beg-
gars. One of the causes of the notorious evils of mendicancy is
precisely this absence of provision for those really or professedly
unable to work.

The difficulties of exterminating street mendicancy are well illus-
trated by the experience of the Associazione di Beneficenza per la Re-
pressione deW Accattonaggio of Naples. This society appeals to the
civic pride of those citizens of Naples who realize the disgrace of
tolerated begging, and asks them to combine to suppress a plague
which they feel injures the morality and prosperity of the city at
home and its fame with strangers who come to see its natural and
historical glories. The policy of the society is to employ agents to
offer beggars an asylum in places of refuge and induce them to cease

^ Rivjsta Ben. Pubb., Feb., 1904, p. 95 ff.



from public mendicancy. But, as the world knows, this is a stub-
born tribe, parasitic habits are inveterate, and the traditions of indis-
criminate almsgiving are deeply rooted. The report complains that
the society has only the powers of a voluntary, private association.^
The police will not make arrests, under the penal code, unless it can
be proved to them that there is an almshouse to which those arrested
can be sent, and the asylums of this society are not yet recognized as
legal asylums within the meaning of the code. Only about 1,200
subscribers could be found to aid the society, whose expenditures in
1902 were 41,819.72 lire. The income was derived from member-
ship fees, special gifts, proceeds of charity entertainments and sub-
sidies from the government. The report complains of public apathy
and of the general scepticism as to the ability of voluntary associa-
tions to improve the situation. Various charitable societies compete
with each other for gifts and cooperation has not been organized.
These confessions are painfully appreciated by all who have to do
with voluntary charities, and many of us understand the declaration
that the subscriptions are "non sempre spontanee ne facili."

At Faenza the report of the Ricovero di mcndicita for 1901 shows
that there were, on Dec. 31, 118 male and 85 female inmates; the
average expenditure per inmate was 239.40 lire.

G. Vagrants, Beggars and the Unemployed. — The relief of
persons unable to labor {inahili al lavoro) is regulated by the law of
1890 and by a former law of public security of 1881. As stated else-
where, begging on public streets is forbidden where stations of relief
are provided, and where local aid is deficient they are certified to
higher authorities to be properly relieved. But this regulation is very
imperfectly administered. The prescriptions are not clearly ex-
pressed and the relation of the communes to the State is not explicitly
stated. At first the 400,000 lire placed in the budget of state for the
purpose was thought sufficient, but the communes sought to throw as
many cases as possible on the state, and the sum apparently required
rose to 6,000,000 lire, so that in 1897 the government struck the item
from the budget, and the Boards of Charity and voluntary benevo-
lence had to carry the load, and for this they were not prepared.

In 1900 De Martino declared in his report that of the 100,000 per-
sons unable to labor (an estimate evidently very low), more than

^ Reports for 1901-3, kindly sent by Count De La Field at the request of Dr.
Bradley Davis. See Arthur Syraons, Cities, p. 91 ff, 1903.


40,000 lacked suitable care. About 62,000 were assisted, but many
very imperfectly. The statistics of January i, 1899, gave the number
of persons resorting to the beggars' stations (ricoveri de mendicita)
as 35,417 (18,229 males and 17,188 females), most of whom must
have been unable to work ; and the report shows that the mortality in
these institutions was 65 per cent., because the persons aided were
mostly broken-down invalids, and they rarely left the house except
by death.

In 1903, Dr. E. Stiatti writes of "the plague of begging, which
is a disgrace to the entire country, a disturbance to the people and a
national economic injury, even where it does not assume at times the
form of a menace to public order and security."^

In 1899, Comte Stellenti-Scala declared that Italy presented to
the world the sorry spectacle of a nation which, after an experience
of ten years with this branch of the law, declared itself that far bank-
rupt, since the act of striking out the item from the budget could not
be otherwise characterized ; and he demanded, on political, moral and
administrative grounds, that this objectionable attitude should cease.
The Minister of the Interior, Pelloux, answered this attack with good
will, announced a new bill, and admitted that the nation should escape
from this condition as soon as possible, since it could not continue
without shame to all (una specie di vergogna per tutti noi). The
Minister Giolitti and his successors took the same position, but with-
out definite progress. A friend of international peace might interject
the remark that it is difficult to care properly for the poor, the laborer
and schools, and build warships for the Triple Alliance at the same

A law of April 6, 1879 {sidle Congrue dei Parrochi) was passed
to carry out the law of 1866, which required the income of certain
properties of cloisters to be paid over to the communes for aid of
public instruction, hospitals, and care of persons unable to labor.
The value of this property was estimated at 25,000,000 lire ; the quar-
ter belonging to the communes would be 6-y million, and the annual
income of this part about 200,000 lire.

It is thought by many experts that the State cannot undertake the
entire expense without leading the communes to shirk their burdens
and increasing the number of beggars. Local authorities are usually

* Rivista Ben. Pubb., Jan., 1903, p. 31. Cf. March, 1903, p. 181.


much less careful if they think the general government will pay the
bills. The Congress of Charities at Venice, in October, 1900, dis-
cussed this subject and reached the conclusion that there was pressing
need of regulation, and recommended the establishment of a fund in
each province which should be composed of contributions from the
charitable funds, the communes, the provinces and the state. The
communes should contribute according to the number of their settled
citizens who were incapable of work, while the provinces should give
one-tenth, and the state one-half of the contribution due from the
commune. With the help of communes and private benevolence
some attempts have been made to furnish work, but as yet these ef-
forts have been few and those chiefly in cities. The statistics for
1898-99 showed that there were 23 workhouses (case d'industria)
caring for over 5,000 persons (two-thirds men and one-third women).
Most of these workhouses give only work and not lodgings.^

Homeless Men. — At Turin, in 1888, an asylum for lodgers was
established. The structure and furnishings have cost 60,000 lire.
It has a capacity for 50 persons, and receives persons of both sexes
and all ages. From its opening to 1899 it had received 37,909 lodg-
ers for 87,412 nights, an average of 30 persons each night, with two
nights of entertainment. The annual receipts are 9,000 lire, and
expenses about 8,000 lire.

At Milan, in 1901, was opened the Alhergo Popolare, or Lodging
House, whose idea was suggested by the Rowton House which was
established in London in 1893, and which was imitated in the Mills
Hotel in New York and in other cities. The rules prohibit smoking
in the sleeping rooms, late hours and gambling, but provide for cheap
baths, clean beds, good plain food at low prices, amusement rooms
and all that is necessary for decent and comfortable living.^ A
visitor to this establishment has criticised its administration on the
ground that it does not help the persons for whom it was originally
designed, the very poor; and that it is treated as a comfortable,
cheap hotel by travelers who like its luxury and are abundantly able
to pay more than its low rates. This visitor says that the customers
do not wash their own clothes in the free laundry, but hire it done ;
nor do they go to the trouble of cooking their own food in the free
kitchen, but take meals at the restaurants. It seems to be admitted

^ See Florian and Cavaglieri ; I Vagabondi, 1900, I, 530 ff ; Statistics in II, 96 ft".
'^ Riv. Ben. Pubb., June, 1901, p. 498.

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 59 of 73)