Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/73

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71
RELIEF—OFFICIAL AND VOLUNTEER AGENCIES.

temporary and illusory aid, and endeavoring, by means of employment, emigration, loans to enable people to start afresh in life, and so on, to give real and permanent assistance. This committee I was asked to join, as, having a seat on the Marylebone Charity Organization Society, I could form a personal link between the inquiring and the relieving bodies, in addition to the written link which the report on each case afforded. I was also asked to act as referee, that is, to communicate the decisions of the committee to the visitor, who was requested to dispense the aid voted or inform the applicant of the reason of its refusal. In this capacity of referee, I formed a sort of center for the district visitors; it became my duty to give advice when asked, and to instruct new or inexperienced visitors in the nature of their duties and the principles they were expected to adopt. Each visitor had to keep a book, in which the name of every applicant was entered, together with the information obtained about him through the local branch of the Charity Organization Society. An account of all money given to him by any charitable agency, and a short notice from month to month of the events in his family were also entered. Each book contained the facts relating to residents in one court or street only, and was always in the hands of the visitor of that court, temporary or permanent; an alphabetical index enabled her to turn at once to the account of any given family.

The result of this system was to train a body of visitors in judicious and organized modes of work. The light thrown upon cases of applicants by the Charity Organization Society, the advantages afforded by practical work under an experienced committee, and the power of watching individual cases of distress through a long period of their history (a power which small districts and written records materially increase), were all important elements in the education of these visitors.

When this system had been in operation two or three years, it became clear that these volunteer visitors might