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best method under the circumstances, but inherently so. Not that it is perfect, as some day it may come to be, but its principles and its spirit are right. It is a happy medium between the past and the future of the city's life. It is protecting it in its dangers of rapid growth, while it is perpetuating all that was best in its village neighborliness of old days. It must grow, as are the duty and right of everything which lives; but it has not to be superseded by something better. It will hold its own as the city grows, and questions its usefulness more and more. But one thing it must do. As one worker has well said, “We have not done enough to improve the quality of this life we are guarding so carefully.” It must struggle persistently to get above the material, and see the soul in every man. That is the one peril of a method anywhere, and especially is it dangerous to use method in dealing with our fellow-men. That is where the rebellion of our critics, both among the poor and the rich, starts,- in the instinctive shrinking of the soul from method. We need our brother's warning constantly, and let us remember always the quality of life more than quantity. “It is an easy matter,” says some one, “to minister to physical wants; but to re-create a person, to restore lost manhood and womanhood, is a labor of love that requires patience, wisdom, courage, nerve.” Carlyle tells us of “the gift of life which a man can have but once; for he waited for a whole eternity to be born, and now has a whole eternity waiting to see what he will do when born.” We must teach man always the aspiration of Browning, that flesh may help the soul:
“Let us not always say,
OUTDOOR PUBLIC RELIEF IN MASSACHUSETTS.
BY THOMAS F. RING,
PRESIDENT OF THE PARTICULAR COUNCIL OF THE ST. VINCENT DE PAVI.
Public relief of the poor in Massachusetts is a duty placed upon a board in each city and town, known as the overseers of the poor. Except in the city of Boston the overseers have also charge of the almshouses.
Outdoor public relief is mandatory. The law provides that the overseers shall relieve all poor in their cities and towns who stand in need of such relief. The extent, nature, and duration of the assistance depend on the particular circumstances of the applicant. If he has a settlement in the town in which he lives, the cost of partial support is charged to the appropriation for the town's poor. If he has a settlement in one town, but lives in another in the State, the town in which he lives will give the aid, charging the cost to the town in which he holds a settlement, at the same time notifying the latter town or city. If the applicant has no settlement in any city or town in the Commonwealth, temporary aid may be given by the town overseers, the cost being charged to the State, notice being sent to the State Board of Charity.
The State Board will allow a limited amount to be expended in outdoor aid, but reserves the right to order it stopped and to direct the transfer of the applicant to some State almshouse at any time.
To cover the case of temporary as given once to some needy person passing through the city, the Boston overseers have allowed the payment of small amounts at the discretion of the secretary of the Board. Within this list all the outdoor poor are comprised.
We have, then, to deal with a long-standing custom, sanctioned by law and supported at the cost of the public purse, in considering outdoor public relief. If honestly and carefully administered, I am decidedly in favor of continuing it as it is done in Boston, and, as far as I am aware, in the State of Massachusetts. I know something of the practical workings of outdoor public relief in Boston, having served nearly nine years on the Board of Overseers. For thirty years I have been a worker in the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Boston,
and know something of private outdoor relief and of the necessary relations between the dispensers of public outdoor relief and the almoners of private relief.
As far as I can remember, when a city has abolished public outdoor relief, the cause is more in the dishonesty of the officials than in the giving of the aid itself. We have not been entirely free from trouble on this score in Boston. When the overseers were elected by ballot at the polls, each ward electing its own overseer, there was sharp competition among the grocers in some wards as to the one to whom should be assigned the tender and beautiful duty of giving aid to the needy in that section. The more he gave out, the more charitable he was considered, and in some cases the more profitable it was to himself. Now the mayor nominates and the aldermen confirm four citizens each year, to serve three years.
Two women are on the Board, and are among its most useful members. The overseers serve without pay. The office staff of clerks and visitors of course are paid. The office is open daily, except Sunday, the whole year through. Every person asking for aid is given prompt and careful attention, whether the applicant comes in person or makes his appeal through another, the visitors going to the homes of the poor to better judge, by personal observation and inquiry, of their actual needs.
Some of our local charity societies suspend operations during the warm weather, many of our benevolent individuals are absent in the country, or some other country, for the summer; but the overseers are always at hand. Aid, as a rule, is given in groceries from the storehouse of the Board, insuring against abuse of an order on a grocer. Applicants living within a reasonable distance of the storehouse, and able to carry the supplies, call for them at the storehouse. Those living at a considerable distance receive their allowance by express, the cost of carriage being paid by the Board. Grants in money are given, when the aid in food or fuel will not serve so well. Shoes or clothing are not distributed by the Board.
For burial expenses the Board paid in 1894 over four thousand dollars. The efficiency of the Board's service depends on the intelligence and devoted energy of the office staff. One great advantage in the public service of the outdoor poor is, undoubtedly, in the training of the visitors, who have become admirably fitted for their duty by years of constant practice under the eyes of the overseers, as
well as of the secretary of the Board, who is a salaried man, always in the office.
Reports of the visitors made up for each individual are carefully and impartially prepared. The visitor bases his opinion on the merits of the application, on the legal rights, and the actual proved needs of the applicant. Pending investigation, aid is not withheld, but given at once, and, until definitely passed on, is marked “ Probably city Probably State,” as may seem to be the case. The visitor has no concern with the nationality or the religion of the person asking for aid.
I say now, as my deliberate opinion, that, while the outdoor poor of the city of Boston are served by as honest and capable a set of public-spirited men and women as are doing the work to-day, there will be no occasion to disband the Board or to abandon outdoor relief through public channels.
In cases of unusual emergency the Board has not hesitated for one hour to place itself in the front of the conflict and to put its whole strength in instant play. An inundation of part of our city filled the streets with water to the height of ten feet, so that the lower stories in some places were submerged. A thousand families in this way were in want of immediate supplies of food and fuel. The Board at once put all its visitors, familiar with the district, at work, employed temporary help, and sent boats through the streets with needed supplies to all who required them. The local charitable organizations fell into line, and, under the general direction of the overseers, worked for a week or more, until the danger had passed. Last year a fire swept through a district full of wooden houses occupied by our humbler people. The same organization that went through the food to their relief now went through the fire, the local charities co-operating until the emergency was over. With us there is no rivalry between public agency for outdoor relief and private agencies. We have come, by association, to know there is a field for each, though the same field may at times be occupied in common, to the increased advantage of the poor, whom both serve. I have found on the part of the paid public visitor in our city as true and tender a regard for the feelings of the poor as I find in the average of the volunteer visitors, and, taken man for man, the trained public visitor is a more judicious and wiser helper than the average volunteer visitor, whose zeal is greater than his experience.
Long training and hard experience are needed to properly fit any one to do good visiting among our poor, whether the visitor works for salary or from love only. Though our overseers are not paid, they give much time and thought to the duties of their office. Any complaint, however trifling it may at first appear, is at once and carefully investigated. It would not be safe for any officer to disregard the warning his first offence would bring on him.
The same Board has charge of the Temporary Home for Women and Children, and the Wayfarer's Lodge for Men. It has charge of trust funds amounting to $700,000, placed in its hands as a corporation, for distinct purposes in relief-work. The Board is not a stepping-stone to political advancement, and its traditions are all against jobbery or junketing. Membership means hard work, many cares, and small thanks.
As to co-operation in charitable work in Boston, the public and most of the private charities are centred in the Charity Building. Co-operation has grown out of neighborhood and pleasant personal relations between officers of the various societies and the public officers. No prescribed lines are set. Each calls on the other as it may have need. A reciprocity of interests has established a sort of communion of thoughts and works.
The Provident Association gives clothes and shoes and other aid to help out the overseers and the other societies. The Associated Charities are busy among all, going to one or the other as there may be occasion. The St. Vincent de Paul Society has two paid agents in its office in the Charity Building, acting in co-operation with public and private charities whenever there is need for it. The Industrial Aid finds employment for persons sent in from other societies. So, without any printed schedule, the various charities, public and private, have reached a way of working together; and, as time goes on, and they know more of each other, co-operation will becom more frequent and effective.
In saying that public outdoor relief, as administered by the ovi seers of the poor in Boston, is honestly and efficiently managed, I not wish to be understood as claiming public outdoor relief thro municipal or State officials to be the best method of dispensing form of aid. To my mind the best method is found in the pers friendship of wise and competent private individuals, who give own time as well as their own money, when needed, to the n