42 ALBERT M EISTER

In document Centro sociale A.04 n.15. Numero internazionale (Page 46-92)

tosto che private, si può tuttavia parlare, com e fanno i portavoce della Fédération, di « principi im m utabili ».

A questi J. M . A rn ion aggiunge qu ello del raggruppam ento dei servizi nel caso in cui i centri mantengano rapporti con parecchie amministra­ zioni (cassa per assegni familiari, scuola, m u n icipio, ecc.) e si assumono così il disbrigo di pratiche relative ai diversi problem i quotidiani che devono affrontare gli abitanti.14

Questi principi n on pregiudicano affatto il tipo del lavoro sociale che si com pie nei centri. Questi se hanno com inciato con 1 assistenza sociale, si sono in seguito necessariamente rivolti verso interessi di natura culturale. Altre organizzazioni francesi più recenti, com e per esem pio i Foyers des

Jeunes Travailleurs, sorti dal problem a degli alloggi si sono indirizzati

verso attività sociali e culturali, i Foyers R uraux, partiti dall’idea che si dovevano introdurre distrazioni in campagna sono giunti ad assumersi com piti sociali, le Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture, partiti da p ro­ blem i essenzialmente culturali e ricreativi si sono rivolti a problem i so­ ciali e familiari. In tal m od o le differenze tra le diverse federazioni e organismi, si chiam ino centri, foyers, o case, stanno scom parendo, e, com e lo dice uno degli esponenti,15 i centri diventano « focolari sociali culturali polivalenti » .16

A lb ert M eister

attività dei 120 centri che hanno servito per preparare

Sala di lettura 18 centri

116 centri Filodrammatica 16

38 » Corsi di musica 17

24 » G ruppi corali •_10

7 » Cinema o cine-club 30

30 » G ruppi di attività sociale 6

88 » Attività sportive 14

4 » Corsi diversi 68

4 » Conferenze 20

19 » Attività sanitarie e medico-sociali 55 » Consultorio di maternità e infanzia 69

5 » Am bulatori e dispensari 75

4 » Dispensari di igiene sociale 2 36 » Centro di medicina del lavoro 13 Centro di igiene scolastica 8

79 » Ginnastica correttiva 6

rata di studi sui centri sociali. Parigi, 30 marzo 1957 Le 14 La tabella che segue indica le

la relazione per l’ONU : Attività sociali

Permanenze sociali N idi per l ’infanzia Asili infantili Asili temporanei

Servizio di lavoratrici domestiche Corsi di economia domestica Centro di cucito e rammendo Centro di lavatura

Mense

Attività per vecchi Servizi di trasporto Bagni e doccie

Colonie e residenze familiari estive Attività educative e culturali Biblioteca

15 M . Léger. Intervento alla g--- _

relazioni presentate sono state raccolte nel num ero speciale della rivista Inform ations sociales già citato.

16 L a Federazione francese dei centri sociali riserva pertanto la qualifica di « centro sociale » soltanto a quegli organismi che sono basati sull’azione fam iliare e sulla presenza nel centro di assistenti familiari diplomate e specializzate.

T h is article is based on experience w orking in and with social settlements, neigh borh ood and com m unity centers in the U nited States during the past twenty-five years. It also draws on a m ore lim ited experience o f visiting neigh borh ood centers and conferring with com m unity workers in Canada.

In Am erica it is difficult to distinguish between the effects o f industria­ lization and o f urbanization on individual, family and n eighborhood life. In this paper the problem s dealt with may be the result o f either, but m ore probably o f both industrialization and urbanization. For purp­ oses o f brevity, they w ill be referred to as problem s o f industrialization. It w ou ld be m ore accurate to think o f them as problem s to be fou n d in a society w hich has already reached a high degree o f industrialization. In 1910, one-third o f the population were in farm families, that is, depending in whole or in part on agriculture for a livelihood. By 1955, only one-seventh o f our people were in this category. T h e U nited States is, therefore, a highly industrialized country and becom ing more so.

I. T h e H um an Problem s o f Industrialization

Many o f the most serious results o f industrialization are inherent in congestion — too many people living on too few square miles o f land. C row ded living conditions create problem s in maintaining physical health. N ot enough daylight and fresh air comes into appartments whose windows open on narrow passageways, air wells in the m iddle o f vast tenements, or narrow streets solidly bu ilt u p on either side. T o o many buildings do n ot have separate toilet facilities for each family. In some cities, ou tdoor toilets are still to be fou n d in the poorest sections. Garbage disposal schedules, which may be adequate for less crow ded neighbor­ hoods, leave streets or alleys in poorer sections littered with garbage and trash much o f the time.

N o less serious are the psychological effects o f crow ded living conditions. T h ere are the effects on the fam ily’s internal relationships. Families with several children crow d into dw elling units o f two or three rooms. Parents have no opportunity for escape from the constant demands o f their children when even the kitchen may be the bedroom o f one or more children.

Adolescent youth w ho need a place o f their ow n to decorate and equip with the fixtures sym bolic o f their special interests have no such room in the congested areas o f Am erican cities. As a result, children and youth spend as few o f their waking hours at hom e as they can. T h e com in g o f

44 JOHN M AC DOWELL

television perhaps has reversed this trend somewhat. T h is may explain why so many low incom e families place so high value on television that they take m oney for it out o f already inadequate funds fo r food and clothing.

Conditions which result in children and youth staying ou t o f the hom e as much as possible consequently result in less parental owersight o f children’s activities. T h e effects o f this range from learning behavior patterns, offensive to parents and the com m unity, from playmates to deep em otional injury growing out o f a sense o f being deprived o f parental loving care.

It is surprising that so many families are able to maintain a keen sense o f family strength and to furnish happy experiences to their children in such surroundings.

In addition to the effects o f urban congestion on the fam ily’s internal relationships, there are the psychological effects on the individual o f such a com m unity environment.

David Riesman in T h e L on ely Crowd and others have dealt at some length with these phenomena. For purposes o f this article only a few o f these psychological effects are m entioned here.

Strange as it may seem, the crow ding o f people together does not result in m ore or deeper inter-personal relationships. It results rather in a feeling o f anonymity and loneliness on the part o f the individual. In the rural village, his neighbors care what happens to him, even to the extent, sometimes, o f prying into his private affairs. In the city, people often d o not know m ore than the name o f the fam ily across the corridor, and not even that m uch about the fam ily living on the floor above or below . T h e noise o f family conflict is a com m unity nuisance to be com plained of, not a neigh bor’s trouble which moves one to offer sympathy or help. W here on e’s neighbors d o not know him, there is little reason to care what neighbors think o f him. T h e social controls w hich operate so strongly in a rural village are largely missing in the m ore congested part o f urban communities.

Likewise, the sense o f obligation to help o n e ’s neighbor in trouble is weaker in urban com m unities. W h en it is expressed, it is usually done so through a con tribution to organized social welfare, rather than directly. G iven the degree o f com plexity in urban com m unity life, no other pattern cou ld possibly meet m ajor social welfare needs.

T h e sense o f social responsibility for on e’s ow n com m unity, which is seen so vividly in a N ew England T o w n M eeting, tends to be lacking am ong the vast m ajority o f the residents o f urban com m unities. W h ere there are so many people living close together, it is very easy for the individual citizen to believe that his civic activity is not very important

to the com m unity. He, therefore, easily defends to him self the rightness o f spending his non-working hours com pletely on individual or family affairs rather than partly on com m unity affairs.

T h e growth o f cities and the developm ent o f an econom ic and class structure resulting from industrialization have created other human problems. These are inherent in the segregation o f residents by class in m odern m etropolitan areas.

T h e inner city, where the m ajor com m ercial institutions and many in­ dustries are located, is interwoven, as well as immediately surrounded by, the dwellings o f many o f the lowest paid workers. Since m uch o f the housing is sub-standard, people live there only until they can find, and are able to pay the cost o f living in m ore desirable dwellings elsewhere. Families live there too short a period to « put down roots » and to feel a part o f a neighborhood. T h e y have little incentive to im prove the n eighborhood because they d o n ot intend to live there any longer than necessary. These neighborhoods are « ports o f entry » for newcomers from rural regions as well as from other m etropolitan areas. O nly those families w ho are handicapped by p oor earning ability because o f lack o f education or special training o r are the victims o f discrim ination in em ploym ent and housing because o f race, religion or language remain in these inner city neighborhoods very long. M eanwhile families w ithout these handicaps m ove to m ore desirable neighborhoods in the city and often to suburban com m unities. T h e result is a ghetto o f econom ically deprived and socially discriminated against people in certain neighbor­ hoods and « elite » neighborhoods o f econom ically and socially privileged people elsewhere.

T h e effect o f this « segregation b y class » is to rob neighborhoods very advantageously located near to industrial and com m ercial em ploym ent o f leadership with an incentive to stability and neigh borh ood social re­ sponsibility .T h e people trapped in the inner city neighborhoods are those with the least surplus resources o f time, m oney, training, and developed talents. M ost o f their resources in m oney and energy are com pletely exhausted by the demands o f daily work, paying the rent and the grocery bill, and keeping the fam ily together under unfavorable circumstances.

T h e effect o f this segregation on the m ore advantaged groups is n ot an unm ixed blessing. T h e ir children are largely deprived o f an opportunity to learn from schoolmates o f different races, cultures, and econom ic levels the elementary lesson that different kinds o f people make different, but important, contributions to the econom ic and social life o f a com ­ m unity and o f a nation. T h ere are n ot frequent opportunities for peop le’s

46 JOHN M AC DOWELL

social conscience to be challenged by the immediate and evident need o f neighbors for their help and encouragement.

In short, it is the conviction o f settlement workers in Am erica that one- class com m unities are not socially desirable.

Changes caused by technological developments in old and new industries, by variations in the business cycle, and by the vicissitudes o f corporation ownership and financing often u proot families and even w hole neigh­ borhoods. Industries m ove to other regions o f the country to get tax or labor market advantages. Such moves leave hundreds o f employees and their families w ithout a livelih ood in the com m unities from which the industry is moving. T h e y may also cause additional congestion and an accompanying strain on pu blic services in the com m unity into which the industry moves. T h e families affected have little or n o voice in the decisions which so vitally affect their well-being. O nly recently in the U nited States has organized labor attempted to defend workers against sudden decisions o f management w hich have m ajor effects on the econom y o f a com m unity. T h e Federal governm ent also is attempting to make governm ent contracts with corporations in com m unities where labor is substantially under-employed. W h ile these are hopeful developments, industrialization seems to bring with it periodic dislocations in com m un­ ity life.

T h e increasing num ber o f industries adopting autom ation in the process­ es o f production means an increasing dem and for relatively few highly skilled labor. T h is developm ent w ill change considerably the econom ic opportunities open to people, particularly to those whose cultural pattern does not include am bition for technical training or high education. These reductions in em ploym ent opportunities for certain groups w ill result in considerable disturbance to family life and in dislocations in com m u n ­ ity life.

Again and again, the needs o f the com m unity may conflict with, and even d o damage to, the best interests o f certain families. For example, a new highway may be required to release the industrial and com m ercial areas o f large cities from traffic congestion. T h e construction o f this highway may cause several score, even hundreds, o f families to give u p their homes and to m ove to other sections o f the city. W h ile property they own is paid for, there are many hidden expenses in m oving that cause real financial hardships. A lso leaving n eighborhood, school, and playmates is a disturbing experience to children and youth in the family.

These are some o f the many human problem s resulting from industria­ lization and corollary social changes.

II. Com m unity centers help p eo p le deal with problem s resulting from

industrialization.

In the U nited States, com m unity centers, settlement houses, neighbor­ h ood centers are all names that are used to designate agencies that work with people o f all ages in their leisure time, for the purpose o f strengthen­ ing family and neigh borh ood relationships. Many o f these agencies were established by people w ho acted consciously in the Canon Barnett and T oy n b ee H all tradition. Others have been form ed by n eighborhood groups w orking together to meet n eigh borh ood needs after they have fou n d that they need professional staff assistance to initiate and carry on an effective com m unity program. A ll types o f organization, motives and nom enclature are represented in National Federation o f Settlements and

N eigh borh ood Centers of the United States.

It is not true, however, that all o f these agencies are identical in program or physical properties. Indeed, their differences are a mark o f their devo­ tion to the settlement tradition. Each subscribes to the fundamental principle that its service program should be tailor-made to meet the needs o f people in the particular geographic area it serves.

O ne factor o f difference is the size and com plexity o f the geographic area population it serves. Some serve a neighborhood, which is defined as an area within which the m ajor needs o f pre-adolescent children are met. It is an area that can be served by one elementary school, with distances short enough that children can reach school by walking. It w ill have grocery stores, drug stores and other similar institutions serving im m e­ diate household needs. O ther centers serve a district, which is made up o f two or m ore adjoining neighborhoods, and contains institutions for adolescent youth and adults as w ell as for children and the family. A district norm ally contains a secondary school, department stores, parish churches, and in some cases m anufacturing plants. O ther centers serve a small city, suburban or otherwise, w hich has the w hole range o f institu­ tions referred to above. T h e meaning o f the w ord « co m m u n ity » is broad, applying to all the above-m entioned area-population groups, and, in addition, to large cities, m etropolitan areas, ethnic population groups, and others.

T h e com m unity centers to which this article refers serve geographic area population groups and not com m unities o f other kinds. T h ere are ethnic and religious centers which serve ethnic com m unities w ithout regard to other population within the geographic area they serve. These centers are not included in the purview o f this article.

C om m unity centers work on social problem s in at least three ways: 1. T h e y study conditions prevailing in the neigh borh ood or district w hich they serve and report their findings both to the general public

48 JOHN MAC DOWELL

and to appropriate com m unity bodies, both governmental and n on ­ governmental. These studies are not necessarily very form al research projects. T h ey may be merely the collective observation o f the workers, volunteer and professional.

2. T h e Board o f Directors and the staff o f the agency may take social action on com m unity problems. T h is action may be taken through their official representation to Com m unity W elfare Council or other social planning body. It may also involve sending agency representatives to present to governmental bodies (m unicipal, state, or national) the results o f observation o f the effects o f social conditions on families and neighbor­ hoods and to urge legislative or administrative action.

3. T h e staff o f the center should be using constantly educational methods to alert neighborhood citizens to the need for neigh borh ood im prove­ ment. Organizational help may then be given to enable n eighborhood groups to speak in their ow n behalf to governmental and other agencies. Using these and other methods, the settlements and centers o f the U nited States have been w orking on several o f the human problem s resulting from industrialization during the past seven decades.

HEALTH . In 1917, the National Federation of Settlements went on record as favoring compulsory health insurance to bring medical care to all income groups on the basis o f need for it rather then on ability to pay. The general climate of public opinion in this country has been unfavorable to whatever can be labelled « socialized medicine ». In the meantime, very substantial governmental health programs have come into being but they do not yet meet the needs for medical care of the non-indigent, but low income family. Community centers, individually and collectively, have continued to work for all kinds of governmental programs o f medical care that seem to have a chance of getting established through legislation.

During these years, also, centers have provided building space and in some instances medical staff for well-baby and other clinics. They have also co­ operated with health agencies to facilitate Xray and other examinations for early detection of tubercolosis, cancer, venereal disease among people in neighborhoods the center serves. These examinations offer excellent opportun­ ities for health education programs. Most centers sponsor health education programs either on a regular or occasional basis. These are usually related to some other center activity, for example, physical examinations for summer campers and nursery school parents’ groups.

HOUSING. For many years settlements and centers in the United States have urged on government the initiation and expansion of public housing for low income families. T he National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood

Centers has more recently been urging governmental assistance to bring

adequate housing within the reach of middle income groups.

Many centers serve neighborhoods which contain blocks of low income public housing. In many instances, centers have been provided offices and meeting

rooms within the public housing development to enable them to carry on community activities which will serve to integrate public housing tenants into general neighborhood life. These activities always invite participation o f both public and private housing tenants, as well as homeowners.

National Federation of Settlements is now taking a new look at present

conditions in public housing developments at the request o f the Federal

Housing Agency. This study will be carried out by a committee of community

center workers in selected cities with the cooperation of the municipal housing authorities.

During the years of W orld War II and since, settlements have worked for the establishment and maintenance o f rent controls in all cities where there is a shortage of housing for low and middle-income groups. This was necessary to keep some safe and sanitary housing within the rental price range which

In document Centro sociale A.04 n.15. Numero internazionale (Page 46-92)

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