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THE CHARITY ORGANIZATION MOVEMENT: ITS

TENDENCY AND ITS DUTY.

BY JEFFREY R. BRACKETT, PH.D., BALTIMORE, MD.

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Since the Society for Organizing Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity, the first Charity Organization Society, was formed in London, twenty-seven years ago, over a hundred and fifty societies under that name, or a kindred name, have been formed, nearly all in Great Britain and the United States. To dwell to-night in a congratulatory vein on figures which show merely much good accomplished would seem to me to be unworthy this occasion. Threefifths of all these societies belong to the United States. The oldest one is but eighteen years old, more than half are under ten years, several have died in infancy. The Charity Organization movement is in its youth, its formative period. Let us who represent its guides in America - gathered here from all parts of the land, in a sure knowledge of great good accomplished and in hope of greate good to come ---- examine carefully its tendencies. Then, if we se faults, let us try to do away with them; if we find higher duties, 1 us try to do them,

The object of the Charity Organization movement, as given at start in London, was the diminution of poverty and pauperism co-operation of benevolent forces and diffusion of knowledge tou ing charity and benevolence. The details of method then adop have largely become as familiar to us as our A, B, C, the car investigation, the adequacy of relief, etc. But permit me to ren you that they included these : that working centres should be li use being made of local interest and knowledge; that the wo individuals, volunteers, personal service, is one of the chief fa

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of Charity Organization, and is to be stimulated by it; that material relief, when needed, is to come from the organization direct only when it cannot be had from other sources, and is to be as far as possible in the form of loans; and, lastly, the thought that underlies all, that any temporary aid should tend to the permanent advantage of the receiver, and so to the lessening of poverty and pauperism.

We are more indirectly interested in the question, what has been the tendency in these twenty-seven years of the societies in Great Britain, than directly concerned with it. Conditions vary, and they no doubt have their own problems to solve. But human nature is much the same the world over. Reports of over sixty British societies for organizing charity show that nearly all of them deal largely in direct gifts of material relief. A few have provided worktests or work-relief; but more have given food to vagrants or have promoted the use of free-food tickets, etc. Co-operation and volunteer work seem, as a rule, to be as yet not highly developed. We turn from these reports with a sense of filial veneration for the London society and its great work, with the conviction that real charity is growing in Great Britain, but with another warning, that there is little in a mere name, that societies, like men, tend to fall away from high principles.

And how is it with us in America ? The object of the Charity Organization movement is the same the world over. Are the methods which we are following, to reach it, the best methods ? First, as to relief, for the stand which a society takes on relief affects every aspect of its work. A majority of us - a bare majority, indeed, counting societies, but a strong majority if greater weight be given to the leading societies and workers -- proclaim and maintain the principle of having no general fund for material relief, of procuring such relief, when needed, from others who give it. A

very

few have established auxiliary relief funds, kept separate from their own treasuries. All of us believe, of course, that assistance to the needy to get regular work is better than any material relief. Some of us, as New York, Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, proclaim it as one of our aims. Yet the society in Brooklyn alone, last year, secured permanent work for almost as many, if not as many, persons as all the other societies in the country put together. At least seventeen societies

a noticeable increase now maintain wood-yards, work-rooms, or other agen

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82 TWENTY-SECOND NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHARITIES
cies for directly providing relief by work, partly for wanderers, partly
for wanderers and residents. At least nine in 1893-94 and seven
(some the same, some others) in 1894-95 provided emergency relief
by work. As many more handled the distribution of special funds.

Next, as to co-operation. Nearly all societies report that it is increasing. Most of those in communities where there is public outdoor relief report friendly or mutually helpful relations with the officials. But answers to specific questions as to details show that co-operation consists so far very much more in our making investigations for others than in our securing assistance from them, even in reports of what they do. Some societies seem to be making little or no effort to get such reports. Especially noticeable is the lack of intimate relations with churches and individuals,-- those sources of much harmful relief, if working apart, those sources of the best relief, in both material and personal service, if we can secure them as allies.

How, now, do we stand as to personal service? Nearly all soci eties mention in their aims the promotion of “friendly visiting. The number of visitors has increased in the past few years; ans happily, this increase is not confined to a few large cities. Y there are noticeable exceptions here. The oldest large societ and also the society in the largest city in the land, have but fe In one city of nearly 300,000 persons, a society thirteen ye: old has none. In another city of over 200,000 persons, a soci eleven years old has given up this form of volunteer work after 1 years' trial; and several societies in small communities report din ishing numbers. As to the character of friendly visiting work, majority of visitors seem to feel that their only duty is to see t families through some immediate need.

Lastly, what of educational work - the spreading of knowledg wiser methods of benevolent activity ? Much has been Many a community owes a debt to its Charity Organization Sc

a debt none the less large because often little realized ani dom repaid. Some of this has been done, directly, by institi established or special efforts made by societies; some indi by independent agencies promoted by them. Much of it ha accomplished by one form of volunteer work, that of infl members and managers. To recite it all would be like givir mer's catalogues of ships and heroes.

If we

Such, in brief, has been the tendency of the Charity Organization movement in America. We have gone a little way up the steep hillside; but already some have wandered from the path, a few have given up and turned back. To play the pedagogue or prophet is often a thankless task; but I venture to speak out frankly what seem to me to be the lessons which have been taught us, which we must heed.

We should stand firm on the rock, on which most of us have chosen to stand, of not dealing directly in material relief. do, we shall secure that relief, when it is needed, all the more gladly; but, above all, we shall cultivate the habit of helping the needy to get work, and a dozen things of greater price than alms. To get funds for material relief, and to dispense it, is the easiest way; but it is not the best way. And let us try to stand firm in dull times as well as good times. So-called emergencies are usually exaggerated, especially by the notion (too often promoted, for selfish ends, by newspapers and others) that relief cannot be secured in quiet ways for those who merit it. Golden Books and Loan and Grant Funds must be carefully guarded; for they tend to grow, in dull times, in both size and permanence. In securing needed relief, we should look first to relatives, friends, individuals, churches, and should turn, as a last resource only, to large relief societies and public aid.

To turn to some convenient official is easier, but to rouse to activity or to turn from wasteful use the aid of individual or church is far better. There is too much tendency to-day to look

upon the public purse as the resource for all needs; while, on the other hand, in churches and small bands of workers and individuals are to be found the highest exponents of charity, those who will give not merely of their means, but of their time and energy.

Some of our societies show a marked tendency to centralization, to mere officialism. Believe me, this is most dangerous. In the local divisions, the districts, should meet together the representatives of local bodies and the local benevolent workers, full of local interest and knowledge. Churches and little societies and individuals have not, as a rule, been persuaded — and they will not, I believe, be persuaded soon - to report officially the benevolent work they do, in order to build up, in some distant office, any system of registration. But the best workers in the churches, in the King's Daughters, and in this and that little group, and many single

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84 TWENTY-SECOND NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHARITIES workers, can be brought into the district offices, to learn by conviction, from experience, how much our methods will help them and help the poor, and so to learn how to help us to real co-operation. Without such co-operation, how can wasteful and harmful relief be avoided? The springs of our work lie in the districts. Dry these up, and the whole stream will narrow. In this respect the London society sets us a splendid example, which we, by keeping our stand of not giving material relief, may safely follow.

I speak last of another general method of work, because it seems to me to be, with all that has been done along its lines, the one that we most neglect. Yet it is most vital. Perhaps for this reason the London society now puts first, of its methods for improving the condition of the poor, the “propagation of sound principles and views in regard to the administration of charity." The education of public opinion to ideas of true benevolence! Each individual that we help up and on is a means to this end; but I think that our critics are often just in saying that, while we are busy over little things, we omit matters of great weight. Are we moving a few individuals to healthy homes, and yet leaving, without protest perhaps, the unfit houses for others to occupy? Are various agencies – such, for example, as dispensaries --- giving away things, largely for the benefit of the promoters, and to the detriment of multitudes who can and should pay for what they get? Are first offenders being turned into criminals by close contact with criminals ? Are we doling out alms to ignorant men and women staggering under debt, when we should on the one hand educate them, and on the other hand stop the exorbitant usury? I do not believe that we are doing all we can, by our influence as societies and as in dividuals, to abolish all conditions which depress, and to pro mote measures which raise men and neighborhoods and commi nities. In most of our cities and towns official outdoor relief given. In some the amount has been lessened. In a few

Boston, for instance ---it has increased. Brooklyn, Philadelph Baltimore, and Memphis - certainly, types of cities different size and in many conditions -- report no such relief, with tha that there is none. Can the other societies justify its existence their communities? What effect does it have on their object,diminution of poverty and pauperism?

Through all this -- for fighting down the need of alms, for sec

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