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The poor laws of Michigan are virtually a reprint of the New York statute, and provide for the care of the poor either under what is known as the county system, where county commissioners of the poor have charge of all the poor in the county, and the taxes for such purpose are spread on the county at large, or by what is known as the township plan, under which each township cares for its own poor ; that is, the supervisor is the director of the poor for his township, leaving only to the county superintendents the care and management of the county poorhouse and care of those who have not acquired a settlement in any township.

Into this system Grand Rapids worked as a township in its relation to the county. For many years the care of the poor of the city had been in charge of a poor-master, elected by the people, subject to the direction and control of the common council. The result and evidence of political influence and divided responsibility, of course, were more or less apparent. Paupers in Michigan lose no political rights by being supported at public expense. They can vote, and their friends and relatives have the same right. We have a population of 80,000 or 90,000 people, a large percentage of whom earn good wages in factories and a large proportion own their own homes, and thousands of savings accounts are kept by our wageearners; but we expended in the care of our poor under that system, in outdoor relief (exclusive of those in the county poorhouse, asylums, and public school for dependent children), amounts as follows: for the years 1892-93, $35,477; 1893-94, $40,346; 1894-95, $43,640; 1895-96, $27,006.

At the session of the legislature of 1895, through the efforts of the charity organization society of our city, an amendment of our charter was secured, providing for the appointment by the mayor (without confirmation of the council) of a non-political board of poor commissioners, who should serve without compensation and have exclusive charge of all matters pertaining to the care of city poor. This law went into effect; and commissioners appointed under it took charge of the department May 1, 1896.

I had the honor of being appointed for the one-year term, and served as president of the board for its first year. As the law under which we were appointed is in most general terms, giving us full power and discretion, we found ourselves in the happy position of having the opportunity of organizing our municipal charities to our

hearts' content, and of course taking the responsibility for our work. I assure you that we met with enough difficulty and failure in our year's work, so that it is with no feeling of pride or egotism that I shall try to relate what we did.

We found the poor laws of Michigan, on examination, constructed on lines, if not specifically in harmony with the most advanced thought and methods of charity organization, yet permitting the application of all the common sense and intelligence covered by the mayor's appointment.

The law furnished its own description and definition for the discovery and identification of persons entitled to aid, as follows: Any person who is blind, old, lame, sick, or decrepit, or enfeebled so as to be unable to maintain himself, and who shall not be main tained by his relatives as provided by law," etc. The specifications could not have been any more safely drawn by a charity expert. The statute furnishes no system or regulations, but gave the board full power to use its own discretion in this regard. So we adopted by-laws and regulations governing the board and its work. Regular meetings of the board were held weekly. A lady secretary and stenographer was appointed. A gentleman of mature judgment and capacity was employed, and placed in charge as disbursing officer and a bright young man employed as storekeeper and investigator. The regular plan of work adopted was something like this: Any applicant for aid was required to sign a written application, giving his own statement of his case, covering all the statutory requirements and others asked for by the board. This application was the first paper in the case; and, if it made out a prima facie case entitling the applicant to aid, then some one from the office was detailed to make a careful investigation in the house and neighborhood of the applicant, also as to the situation and ability of such relatives as the law required to assist in the support of the applicant, a report of which investigation was then written out or dictated to the secretary, and typewritten. Also, if the charity organization society of the city had any record or report on the same person or family, a copy of this was procured, and added to our file. On this record the board would act in deciding what, if any, aid should be granted; and, in case of urgent need, one or more members of the board would act at any time between meetings. All papers relating to the case were placed in a suitable envelope and filed alphabeti

cally; and subsequent reinvestigations, new information, correspondence, etc., are thus kept together and readily referred to, and will furnish a more or less complete history of any person who has ever applied for or secured aid at the office. The practice was uniformly insisted upon, requiring all information bearing upon the situation and character and surroundings of the applicant or recipient of aid, which influenced the decision of the board, to be typewritten and filed for future reference and information.

In case of sickness the report of the city physician, dictated briefly and typewritten, also formed a part of the records, the kind and extent of relief furnished, etc. This included the attendance of the city physician and medicine, where required; care and treatment in hospitals; burial of the dead, where the family and friends were unable to pay. In case the poor person required only temporary or partial support, outdoor relief was furnished in the way of fuel delivered at the house; staple groceries of good quality, flour, etc., furnished at the city supply store; clothing purchased by the disbursing officer, for cases requiring it, of regular dealers. Permanent charges. were sent to the county poorhouse, which is under the management of county superintendents.

The matter of "transportation" secured very careful attention. No pauper was assisted to "move on," simply to get him off our hands, but only where we had reasonable evidence and assurance that he would either be self-supporting or in the hands of relatives and friends who would care for him at the place of destination.

I will place in the hands of this committee samples of our filing envelope, blank application, and examiner's report, to illustrate our plan in that regard, for the inspection of any one who may be specially interested in the matter.

It very soon became known that no aid would be granted without a careful investigation, and then only to such cases as were found clearly entitled to it under the law. The indorsement of the alderman of the ward was soon found to weigh no more than so much information from any other source. The moral effect of the plan and policy discouraged some so that they never even became applicants. Other regular customers of the city supply store were informed, much to their surprise and disgust, that there was no reason why they should come any more. In other cases, parents or children of sufficient ability, non-resident as well as resident, were informed of

their duty under the law to see that the member of the family applying for aid should be relieved by them rather than by the public.

While the management of this department during the first year under the new plan has been to some extent experimental, yet we believe the results have been generally satisfactory and gratifying to those most interested. The saving this year as compared with the year before has been over $10,000, and as compared with two years before over $27,000, and not one dollar has been saved at the expense of real need.

The care of the poor has been for many years a vexatious problem for the common council, worked out through the hands of a city poor director elected by the people. With divided authority, responsibil ity for mismanagement was repudiated by both, and credit for any good results claimed by each. The general results were not satisfactory to either. Official responsibility must be definitely located, in order to insure faithful service and good results. The board of poor commissioners under the amended law were given full authority, and charged with the entire responsibility. Political influence was excluded from the management. Surely, the poor ought never to become the prey or the tool of the politician. If permanent good shall result to our city in the management of its poor department from the practical, well-directed efforts of our charity organization society. (and we believe it will), our experience will be an encouragement to other municipalities to make similar efforts in the same line. Wherever the care of the defective and dependent in any community is found to be ignorantly or corruptly managed, a duty and opportunity is presented for those interested in true charity to bring to bear upon the problem in a practical way their influence and intelligence for reform and betterment. It will do little good to meet, discuss, and criticise. Practical work must be done. A poor office of a county, city, or township, is a public office. The officers in charge are public officials. Their work and methods are public property, and are open to inspection, investigation, and criticism. Mismanagement in that department, the result of ignorance, recklessness, or corrupt motives, when brought to the attention of the community through the public press or in any other efficient way, must be corrected. The interest and sympathy of the people can be counted upon to rebuke and correct whatever may work harm to the poor and dependent or waste and extravagance to the thrifty and honest tax-payer. If you find

the law imperfect, have it amended. If you find the officers incompetent, ignorant, or corrupt, see to it that better men are elected or appointed. Place honest and competent men in charge of the public charities of a county or a city, and the policy and administration of that charity will be improved and organized. It will not require the election of charity experts as commissioners of the poor. Ordinary honest business men can be found, who will be willing to devote sufficient time to the honorable and useful duties of that work.

Those of you who are earnest and enthusiastic in the study of charity problems, and accordingly engaged in the work, need not be surprised or discouraged if you meet with stolid indifference, lack of appreciation or intelligence, or even opposition to any change, even for the better. Remember that the grain has to be planted and cultivated, while weeds and briers grow spontaneously. We can only get on a higher level in our municipal life in any department by patient climbing; but it is the up-hill work that counts for good in any direction, and charity work is certainly no exception to the rule.

The hopeless paralytic waited long years to be healed, because, while he was coming to the water, another more sturdy and less in need stepped down before him. So it will always be. If a careless administration of the poor fund allows the sturdy beggar and the brazen-faced impostor to elbow away the shrinking and honest, but more needy, the purpose and helpfulness of the whole plan is destroyed. Real distress seeks and waits for help elsewhere or goes unrelieved. So, when the importance of investigation is emphasized, it is only to clear the way for the real work of relieving distress and helping those in need.

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