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College Conference Meeting.

Problems of Charity in a Large City.


It was unfortunate that Mr. Alfred T. White should have come to Harvard at a time of the year when all of the students are cramming for examinations. On account of the time of year only a small audience was present to hear his most interesting and instructive address, After being introduced by Professor F. G. Peabody, Mr. White said that he deemed it important that in a country like ours people of intelligence and influence should know what problems are coming up in regard to the management of the poor. It is just as easy for philanthropic men of wealth to work judiciously as to work carelessly.

Problems of charity belong to large cities. In small towns cases of want are helped by the neighbors because all the people know each other. As the town grows into a large city people are no longer neighbors to each other; poverty, want and crime segregate to the lower and more unhealthy portions of the city and it becomes necessary in order to relieve distress to establish relief societies. These societies simply give alms to the people who apply for them and concern themselves very little in any other means of helping the poor. In the last report of the New York society for the relief of the poor, the opinion is strongly hinted that the charitable work done by that body in the last fifty years has done more harm than good-that the whole thing is a huge failure. This comes from the injudicious habit of giving alms. Now the poor are not a class, they are a thousand classes; hitherto people have failed to recognize this and as a result have been deluded by the idea that the real work of charity was to give alms, to furnish work, or to improve the homes of the poor. The truth is that the almsgiver only reaches people who will beg, the employer only those who want work, and the furnisher of homes only those who want homes. But if we are to work in any one direction we can perhaps do most good by improving tenements and making the surroundings of the laborers more cheerful. From the fact that out of six hundred children of confirmed criminals educated by a society only five turned out badly, that in large cities more than two thirds of the applicants for help simply want work, Mr. White feels confident that the problems of pauperism can be solved. This cannot be done by trying to help out the crime of the most debased classes by giving alms, but by judiciously educating and encouraging the very large class of poor who honestly and manfully strive to improve their own condition and to leave to their children happiness they never have themselves. Mr. White said that he was himself interested in some scheme for bettering the tenement houses in New York. The effort was a complete success simply as a business scheme. The improved buildings are built around a large interior court in such a manner that every room has a window. The buildings are arranged with outside stair cases, to avoid the dangers and discomforts of a huge wooden fire blower in the inside of the house and to give every family the domestic privacy secured by a front door of its own and no connection with the other occupants of the building. The pleasure taken by the by the people in these pleasant apartments is a most encouraging sign. Such a building is not finished a week before every room is filled. The greatest result up to date, from the establishment of these improved tenements is the renewed interest taken in legislation concerning tenements-a thing which may do much good if well done. He ended by saying that the poor may be responsible to a certain extent for their ignorance, laziness and viciousness but they are not, in large cities, responsible for their homes. There is room for large charity as well as for good business in this direction.

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