Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

respectable unfortunate poor, who are usually self-supporting, and who always make the best effort at self-support of which they are capable. They ask for temporary aid only in extraordinary emergencies; and, when the emergency is past, they leave the ranks of the dependent and become again self-supporting.

The county provides both indoor and outdoor relief, --indoor for those who can be better treated in institutions, and outdoor for those who can be better treated at their homes.

The following institutions are connected with the system of indoor relief; namely, a general hospital, an infirmary for chronic invalids and incurables, a hospital for the insane, another for contagious diseases, and an almshouse for the aged and permanently dependent who are neither sick nor insane. The capacity of all these institutions is, in round numbers, four thousand. They are all generally full, except the almshouse in summer. They carry a total of about five hundred names on their pay-rolls. How many are actually employed I do not undertake to say.

The cost of grounds, buildings, and furnishings for these institutions is not far from $3,000,000. The total cost of operating them is $700,000 per annum.

Public outdoor relief is administered through an officer known as the county agent and appointed by the county commissioners. He has an office and storehouse near the centre of the city, with a corps of clerks, book-keepers, and visitors, together with a number of physicians who attend to the sick poor. This county agent issues provisions, fuel, and shoes, also gives orders on the county undertaker for interment, and in special cases furnishes transportation. He gives no money, bedding, or clothing, under any circumstances.

The general monthly allowance of outdoor relief for one family is a 25-lb. sack of flour, five pounds of corn beef, five pounds of beans, three of rice, five of oatmeal, one-half of coffee and tea, one bar of soap, and, in the winter, one-half ton of soft coal. The allowance is proportioned to the number of persons in the family and the measure of disability, large families receiving twice this ration.

The appropriation to the county agent's office generally averages $100,000 per annum for supplies and $25,000 for expenses. This, I think, covers all that is technically embraced in public relief in Chicago.

In the “Directory of Chicago Charities," published last year by

best it is its fut

68

TWENTY-SECOND NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHARITIES

[ocr errors]

the secretary of the Illinois Conference of Charities and Correction,
there are enumerated two hundred private charitable institutions and
societies, exclusive of churches. This enumeration includes hos-
pitals, dispensaries, homes for the friendless, the aged, incurables,
crippled children, asylums, refuges, reformatories, training schools,
missions, kindergartens, crèches, university settlements, and special
relief societies of the different fraternities and nationalities.

The name of the society or institution generally defines its nature
and limitations, so that there is little, if any, danger of duplication.

The only general relief society, which undertakes to administer relief to all deserving needy persons for whom no other provision is made, is the Chicago Relief and Aid Society.

This society is entirely free from political or sectarian control, and in the administration of its charity makes no distinction as to nationality, color, or creed. It aims to do promptly and adequately whatever seems absolutely necessary in any given case to prevent or to relieve distress. It does not handle supplies of food or fuel, but gives money, bedding, clothing, and shoes.

It owns large privileges in the various private hospitals, in the Home for the Friendless, and the Old People's Home, on account of having advanced to them large sums of money; and, through these institutions, the society accomplishes a vast amount of work.

The objects and methods of this society are briefly outlined in its special charter, granted by the State of Illinois in 1857, also in its constitution and by-laws, and in its general rules and rules for visitors. Section 2 of its charter reads as follows:

[ocr errors]

SECTION 2.— The objects of this corporation shall be strictly of an eleemosynary nature. They shall be to provide a permanent, efficient, and practical mode of administering and distributing the private charities of the city of Chicago; to examine and establish the necessary means for obtaining full and reliable information o the condition and wants of the poor of said city, and putting int practical and efficient operation the best system of relieving and pre venting want and pauperism therein.

Section 1 of the Constitution is as follows:

1. In carrying out the objects of this society as indicated in act of incorporation, it shall be the end aimed at, not only to aff, temporary relief to the destitute, but also, by rendering timely co sel and assistance to deserving but indigent persons, to place t

above the necessity of aid ; and, without positively limiting itself to any one class in the distribution of its charities, the society shall discriminate in favor of those in whom habits of temperance, industry, and thrift give promise of permanent benefit from the aid furnished, and shall not embrace in the sphere of its operations such as are the proper subjects for the poorhouse or for the action of the county officers.

By-law No. 13 provides that “there shall be a Committee on Hospitals and Homes, consisting of three members, which shall have charge of the relations of this society to the various hospitals and homes of the city as have received endowment appropriations from this society."

By-law No. 15. A Committee on Co-operation, consisting of three members, whose duty it shall be to maintain and strengthen friendly relations between this and other charitable societies, associations, or agencies, local and in other cities, with a view to promoting the largest efficiency and usefulness of this society.

[ocr errors]

From the general rules and rules for visitors :

Each applicant for relief is entitled to charity until a careful examination proves the contrary.

Relief is to be given only after a personal investigation of each case by visitation and inquiry by the superintendent or authorized visitor.

Relief to be discontinued to those who manifest a purpose to depend on alms rather than their own exertions for support.

Able-bodied men are not regarded as proper subjects for relief, but will be furnished employment directly by the superintendent or sent to reliable employment agents, with whom the society co-operates.

Applicants having claims on other charities are to be furnished with a card directing them to the same.

It is an absolute condition of relief by this society that all persons receiving aid are not to ask alms or assistance of the public, either on the street, at residences, or places of business.

In all cases where families or persons, on account of want of employment, have been aided by this Society through a winter, and are by us offered situations, either in the city or country, adapted to their condition in life, with aid to reach such situations, which they refuse to accept, no further relief shall be extended to them.

This society operates two wood-yards. It has not, within the last twenty years, refused any sober, single, able-bodied man an opportunity to earn board and lodging for a limited time, by working four or five hours a day, leaving him the rest of the time wherein to find

best

it is its ful

70

TWENTY-SECOND NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHARITIES

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

other more permanent employment. The society furnishes work for
men with families, paying them every night in cash. Some earn
$1.50 a day; others are content to earn 80 cents, 60 cents, and some
not more than 20 cents. But many, both married and single, in-
dignantly decline work altogether.

The wood-yards are nearly self-supporting. Last year was an ex-
ceptionally hard year in Chicago on account of scarcity of work and
of the large number of men attracted to the World's Fair who pre-
ferred to remain and take the chances in Chicago rather than return
to their former homes or to go elsewhere. The wood-yards were run
that
year

at a loss of about $10,000.
The foregoing pretty fairly and fully represents the system of
relief in Chicago in ordinary times.

In times of depression or of special emergencies, as, for example,
in 1874-75 or in 1893-94, when the country was passing through a
grave financial and industrial crisis, the resources of all charitable
societies were taxed to their utmost. It would not have been so diffi-
cult to meet all reasonable demands, had it not been for the unwar-
ranted excitement created by certain alarmists and sensation-mongers
who exaggerated the number and sufferings of the unemployed.

Early in September, 1893, several weeks before the World's Fair closed, a cry was raised that one hundred thousand men were out of employment in Chicago, and that the families of many of them were

verge of starvation. It was proposed to raise one million dollars for relief. A house to house canvass was made, and the real state of the case disclosed. It was found that no such distress existed. There were a great many idle men in Chicago, principally strangers and adventurers. A large number of resident mechanics and laborers had been thrown out of work by the completion of th World's Fair Buildings. But it was midsummer, and no unusu: degree of suffering was apparent. The proposition to raise Oy million dollars for relief for the coming winter no doubt confirm many in their purpose to remain, and brought many others Chicago to share in the distribution.

This proposition to raise a large sum, and to inaugurate measu for relief on a gigantic scale, failed because the necessity for doing was not apparent.

A few months later a Citizens' Relief sociation was organized, mainly for the purpose of furnishing v for unemployed men. When rooms were opened, under the ausi

upon the

of this association, to supply food and shelter, an enumeration was made, and the estimated 100,000 shrank to 20,000. As soon as it was clearly established that work was to be the condition of relief, the number was further reduced to about 4,000.

The Citizens' Association raised about $135,000. During the winter there was expended for the benefit of all who would work at cleaning the streets about $100,000. The balance raised by the Citizens' Association was distributed among the regular established charities of the city and in such other directions as seemed proper.

As usual, the Chicago Relief and Aid Society had the money and machinery to meet all demands upon it. With returning spring the transient population disappeared, and business resumed its usual channels; and the summer left no traces of the perils, real or imaginary, which threatened the city during the winter.

The experience of that winter had its advantages. It aroused public sentiment, and directed the thought and effort of many citizens toward sociological study and philanthropic enterprise.

The women of the city were important auxiliaries in inquiring into the wants of and providing work for women. The Woman's Club, comprising in its membership a large number of the leading women of Chicago, and several other existing women's clubs, together with some new ones organized by women for the express purpose of helping women and children, did much to allay excitement and to furnish support to thousands, many of them widows and deserted women with families.

Co-operation has always been practised by the county, or public relief, and the Chicago Relief and Aid Society; and the lines of division between them are clearly defined. Interment, at the charge of the county, is made on the county agent's order, by the county undertaker, in a potter's field, at contract price of something less than $1 per subject. The interments furnished by the Relief and Aid Society are made through a private undertaker, in quite a different manner, in any cemetery preferred by friends of the deceased, at an average cost of $20.

There is little danger of conflict or duplication between the county agent and the Chicago Relief and Aid Society, or between the society and any of the other charitable organizations in Chicago. A practical and free interchange of courtesies prevails among all these bodies.

« PreviousContinue »