Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/79

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77
RELIEF—OFFICIAL AND VOLUNTEER AGENCIES.

bringing and giving relief would not be very clear to recipients.

In conclusion, I may say that the system described above, would, when perfectly carried out, ensure that out-door relief should be confined to the deserving, and that drunken and idle people should be offered the workhouse only. Thus far our volunteer workers are fully aware of the objects for which they are associated together. But I am myself satisfied that the scheme is capable of a far deeper influence on the condition of the poor, when the volunteers shall rise to the perception that, in dealing with poverty, they must aim at prevention rather than at cure; at saving those under their influence from sinking to the Poor-law Level, rather than merely obtaining relief for them when they have reached that low point. Few of my fellow-workers have as yet grasped the idea that their best success would be to develop the resources of the poor themselves, instead of letting them come upon the rates, or continue upon them. I think they rarely set before themselves the desire to find some employment, at hand or far off, which may support the young widow and her children before she has tasted parish bread. I think they rarely press upon the old woman the duty of first trying if the successful son cannot support her, or the daughters in service unite to do so. They have not yet watched the poor closely enough to see that this would be in reality the truest kindness. They forget the dignity of self-maintenance, they forget the blessing of drawing the bonds of relationship closer, and dwell only upon the fact that the applicant is deserving—see only the comfort or relief which the parish allowance would secure.

How far they can raise the people by degrees above the degrading need of charitable or Poor Law relief, to be energetic, self-reliant, provident, and industrious, will depend upon the height of their own hope, the patience of their own labor, the moral courage which will teach them to prefer being helpful to being popular, and finally to the temper and spirit of their own homes and lives. For, say what