Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/76

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74
HOMES OF THE LONDON POOR.

nected and brought into efficient co-operation by the referee, who directs and superintends the visitors, attends the meetings of the Charity Organization Society, and of the Relief Committee, and is the medium through which the Board of Guardians acquire information otherwise inaccessible to them.

The immediate direct effect of the adoption of this system upon the Poor Law cases may be slight; it may be that the information supplied by the district visitors does not in many instances modify the decisions of the Board; but this is the least part of the work. If the visitors really learn their duties, and apprehend the spirit of the system they have undertaken to carry out, it is impossible to measure the effect which the work may have in diminishing pauperism and inducing more provident habits of life among our laboring classes; and thus, along with other advantages, reducing the heavy burden of the poor-rates. The connection with the Poor Law system is calculated to be of great advantage to the visitors. They will learn something of its working; they will be enabled to use with much greater effect and with much greater frequency the lever which distaste for the "House" puts into their hands; and knowing that while the workhouse exists even the idle and improvident and reckless need not starve, they will be encouraged to refuse to such persons the pauperizing doles of a merely impulsive charity, in the belief that such refusal will probably benefit the individual, and will certainly in the long run benefit the class.

The plan described resembles the one in operation at Elberfeld, inasmuch as it is based on the same principle; sub-division of work among a large number of volunteer visitors, grouped under recognized though unpaid leaders. As in Elberfeld, we have not sought to enlist visitors who can give their whole time to the work. We want those living in their own homes, surrounded by their own interests and connections, and who can bring individual sympathy and thought to bear on a very few families. A large num-