Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/54

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52
HOMES OF THE LONDON POOR.

covering the same ground whilst ignorant of each other's proceedings; or to dwell on the cruelty of the utter want of system which has hitherto prevailed,—to point to poor families assisted by three or four agencies at times when they needed help least, and others neglected by all at times when they needed it most. It would not be difficult to give examples of these evils, and to show that they are inseparable from the condition of large towns wherever nothing is done to secure unity of action amongst those who are trying to assist the poor.

Much has been done. The evils of overlapping, on the one hand, and of neglect on the other, are being swept away wherever organization committees, with their machinery for thorough investigation, and relief societies, with their power to assist, are in existence. By means of this system of inquiry into the merits of cases a great degree of uniformity in dealing with them is secured; no relief is given without due consideration, no poor person who chooses to apply can fail to have a hearing for his case, and similar needs will meet with a similar response. All this is no small gain. But now a new danger seems to me to be arising; a danger lest, rushing from one extreme to another, we should leave to committees, with their systems of rules, the whole work of charity, and deprive this great organizing movement of all aid from what I may call the personal element. The value of this element seems to me to be inestimable. Charity owes all its graciousness to the sense of its coming from a real friend. We want to bring the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, more and more into direct communication. We want to enlist the thought, knowledge, sympathy, foresight, and gentleness of the educated in the service of the poor, and must beware of raising up barriers of committees between those who should meet face to face. There is beyond all doubt in almost every town a great amount of volunteer work to be had, which, were it organized and concentrated, would achieve infinitely more than its best efforts can now accom-