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III. PHILANTHROPY, CHARITIES AND SOCIAL
PROLEMS. Ohio State Conference on Charity.-Among the eighteen State Conferences of Charities and Correction held within the last six months especial mention should be made of the Ohio Conference. The discussion, much of which was extemporaneous, was upon very definite, concrete problems, such as “ Should the state aid in placing children in families, and in the after-supervision of such children?” “Is it the duty of county visitors to let a report go to the local papers before the yearly report, as a whole, is sent to the State Board of Charities ?" “Should children be placed near their former homes or at a distance therefrom?" “Does Ohio need a state agent to investigate the circumstances of foreigners who become public charges within one year after their arrival, with a view to having them returned to the countries from which they came?”
The proceedings of the Ohio Conference above mentioned have recently been published in the official Bulletin of the State Board of Charities. A study of this pamphlet would be of service to all who have any responsibility for programs of similar conferences and conventions.
Loans to the Poor.-One of the most vexatious and burdensome impositions upon the poor is the system of loans by chattel mortgages and the extortionate rate of interest charged upon these loans. It is doubtful whether the individual lenders often make exceptional profits from this business, notwithstanding the absurd charges which they make, since the system tempts to dishonesty, and to failure to meet obligations even when there is no such intention on the part of the borrower. An instance which has come under the observation of the writer will illustrate the ordinary procedure in connection with such loans as made in New York City, typical, however, of the business in other American cities as well.
A woman of excellent character and with a reputation for thrift and careful management, in an emergency applied to a loan company for the sum of $25. She gave her note for this amount but received in cash only $19, the difference representing the charge for appraisement and other incidental expenses. The law permits the lender to charge 3 per cent a month for the first two months and 2 per cent thereafter for the first year. As a result the loans are made for two months only, and at the end of this period the loan must be repaid and a new loan negotiated with $5 or $6 charges for appraisement, etc., as at the time of obtaining the original loan. At the end of four months the borrower had paid in all $15, only $4 less than the original amount obtained but with no portion of the principal of her debt as yet dis. charged, the loan having been twice repeated. The lender considered himself entitled to the entire $25 with interest at the rate of 36 per cent per annum upon that amount from the time when the loan was made. When asked whether his client was not paying $40 in return for her $20 he responded that she was doing nothing of the kind, that according to his method of figuring, he had loaned her $75 !
As there was a possibility of disagreeable publicity, however, he expressed a willingness to compromise for $15 in cash but desired to regard the remaining $10 as a contribution to the society which had become interested in the matter.
A case is cited by the Associated Charities of Milwaukee in which a man had paid $7.50 a month on a loan of $75, and after having paid $15 more than the principal still owed the entire $75.
The Workingmen's Loan Association of Boston, the Buffalo Provident Loan Company, the St. Bartholomew's Loan Agency of New York City are among the attempts to combat this evil by the organization of rival companies upon a business basis, loaning money at a moderate rate. A paper on the subject was presented at the Cincinnati National Conference of Charities and Correction by Miss Mary L. Birtwell, General Secretary of the Associated Charities of Cambridge, Mass., but with the exception of the organization of the State Pawners' Society of Chicago little progress has been made since that time in remedying the evil. The difficulties are greater than in the case of pawnshops, since in the latter the lender has possession of the goods and can thus prevent the borrower from making away with them, and from causing them to deteriorate in value.
Housing Reform.—The movement for housing reform which has had so notable a development in New York during the past two years, resulting in the passing by the legislature of the four bills recommended by the Tenement House Commission, has spread also to other American cities. In Chicago a new society, known as the City Homes Association was formed about a year ago and it has been conducting a scientific and thorough investigation of housing conditions in Chicago. It is understood that a report embodying the result of this investigation will soon be issued setting forth for the first time in a scientific form what the conditions are in that city. A similar investigation has recently been started in Ka City through the Bureau of Associated Charities; a company having been formed to build small cottages in the outskirts of the city and to remove thereto a number of families now living in the “packing house district.” Free transportation for one year has been secured for the heads of these families and after this period a five-cent fare is to be charged. It is expected that the electric line will bring the men to their work within fifteen minutes. Twelve families are to move out to this colony during this spring. The houses are to contain three or four rooms, each with half an acre of land around them and are to cost from $450 to $600. In addition to this scheme for providing suburban homes for the wage-earners of Kansas City, a movement is also being started to secure a proper code of tenement laws and ordinances.
In Philadelphia the Octavia Hill Association, formed about four years ago, is quietly carrying on its successful work. This association buys up swall dwellings and tenements of moderate size and puts them in order and properly manages them, making a point of renting them to the really poor people of the city. Many of these houses, before the Octavia Hill Association took hold of them, were dangerous to health and a disgrace to Philadelphia. The change that has taken place under the management of this association is most beneficent. Through a system of proper management and friendly rent collecting the association has accomplished extremely satisfactory results. Dividends of 4 per cent upon the stock have been paid during the past year and the association has no outstanding debts.
There is hardly any large American city in which similar associations should not be formed to manage properly tenement house property, and in which results would not be of incalculable benefit to the laborer.
Charities Directory of Frankfurt a. M.-The first Charities Directory of Frankfurt-on-the-Main has been published by the Stadtbund der Vereine fur Armenpflege und Wohlthätigkeit of that city. It is a volume of 179 pages and is classified somewhat after the plan of the New York and Boston charities directories. The association which publishes the volume was founded in 1899. Its object is to unite the various charitable and philanthropic agencies of the city and to promote co-operation among them by means of conferences and otherwise. The expenses of the Stadtbund are borne by appropriations from the various constituent societies and by voluntary contributions.
Wages in Siam and in Switzerland.-The United States Consular Report for March contains an interesting note on wages and prices in Siam based upon the personal investigations of the consul general. The wages of day laborers are represented to be from fifteen to thirty cents per day in gold, while farm hands earn from $12 to $13 and living expenses per season. It is unnecessary to quote the prices of food and articles given in the table since the articles enumerated “ do not enter into the living of the laboring man or the mechanic to any great extent.” “The laborer with wages from fifteen to thirty cents a day sits upon the floor in his home, sleeps upon a grass mat, cooks on a box of earth or an earthen crock for a stove, and eats his fish, rice and simple vegetables out of the same dish with his family, without fork or knife or spoon. Eggs, which are very cheap, he has at times; chicken on rare occasions, and
beef is almost unknown in the common laborer's meal.”
“Nature is most kind in this tropical climate, and yet, with all her gentleness, the death rate among the poor is enormous.
“ The mechanics [the majority of whom are Chinese] differ from the laboring classes in that they live together, more closely packed, as tenants, in large bamboo or wooden houses that modern ideas have brought into the city (Bangkok).”
It is reported that while wages have advanced during the last twenty years some 75 or 80 per cent, the staple articles upon which the natives depend for food have advanced on an average 309 per cent during the same time.
Mr. Walter B. Scaife in an article in the Forum for March on Labor Conditions in Switzerland refers to a systematic attempt made in 1895 to compile the wages of labor in Switzerland. The year covered by the statistics was 1893. Among the trades, divided into fifteen categories, and including more than 78,000 persons, the wages of 65,204 workers were ascertained. Of these 1,563 received 1 franc or less per day ; 3,946 earned more than 5 francs a day, while only 41 were paid more than 10 francs per day. 31.8 per cent of the workers in cotton factories earned from 1.51 franc to 2 francs per diem. 85.5 per cent of the silk workers earned 3.50 francs or less per day. For woolen goods the condition was still less favorable, 32 per cent working for wages between 1.51 francs and 2 francs a day.
From a table of average wages for the first half of 1899 it is learned that builders receive as high as 55 centimes an hour; stone masons from 5 to 6 francs a day, and carpenters up to 50 centimes an hour,
Many of the Swiss workers live chiefly on bread and cheese, tasting meat but twice a week, replacing it on other days with vegetables or macaroni, and frequently satisfying their hunger with fried potatoes. The custom, however, of feeding the laborers in the factories is constantly gaining ground. One proprietor goes so far as to provide food five times a day, including two meals with meat dishes.
The cost of lodgings in Switzerland as elsewhere is not only out of proportion to the wages earned but also relatively far dearer than that of the higher-priced apartments. Moreover there is a lack of lodgings at prices within reach of the working classes. In Basle a law was passed in 1900 covering rented houses and including the sleeping rooms of domestics, house laborers and apprentices. The law provides for the creation of a house commission and a corps of inspectors empowered to visit houses without previous notice. This law included, however, so many innovations and involved restrictions on the privacy of the home to such an extent that the referendum was demanded and the measure was defeated.
Mr. Scaife's article concludes with a brief account of the rejection through the referendum of the compulsory insurance law of 1899. Since February 1, 1899, in the canton of Neuchâtel under which five local mutual insurance companies have turned over their policies and funds to the government institution, 7,971 life insurance policies, aggregating 6,722,757 francs, were in force on December 31, 1899, under this system.
Charity Organization in Small Cities.-At the National Conference of Charities and Correction, held in Cincinnati in 1899, there were frequent inquiries, as there usually are at the National Conference, concerning the adaptation of organized charity to small communities. In the interval since that meeting the secretary of the Associated Charities of Dayton, Ohio, has collected information concerning the actual conditions in eighty-three cities of Ohio of a total of ninety from which information was sought. In January, 1900, the average population of these cities was 10,200. The results obtained were submitted to the Tenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction at Dayton in October, 1900.
Fifty-seven correspondents gave the name of some society in their respective towns that claimed to look after the poor in their homes to a greater or less degree. Twelve reported that they had no such society, and an equal number did not answer this question. The principal “recognized private charitable organizations" in fifty-two cities were as follows: Women's Relief Corps, fourteen cities; King's Daughters, four ; various relief and benevolent societies apparently not affiliated with any religious organization, twelve ; Needlework Guild, two; Associated Charities, so-called, twelve ; Dorcas Society, three ; Humane Society, two; Women's Christian Temperance Union, one ; Young Women's Christian Temperance Union, one ; City Mission, one.
Forty-one cities answered the questions concerning the scope of their work. The purpose of one is “to improve the condition of the poor;" thirty-three are for general relief; three for relief, but especially for children. One of the principal objects of a certain society is “consolidation of all relief societies." One is organized to make new garments for the poor ; one looks after the interests of the sick