The commissioners of charities were unwilling to adopt the plan proposed, and to the surprise of the visiting com mittee, who had volunteered their services for the coming winter, completely ignored their offer, and proceeded to make plans for the distribution of relief under a system arranged by themselves, of which the public was not information. The visiting committee brought the matter before the county board of supervisors, who, hav ing the sole right to vote appropriations for the supplies needed by the commissioners of charities, exercised over the distribution of relief a controlling influence which the commissioners of charities could not ignore. The super visors, who were at this time in sympathy with public sentiment, accepted the recommendations of the visitation committee, and voted to supply coal only. The commis sioners of charities objected to this, and the movement was left in an indeterminate state at the close of the year 1877.
In the new board of supervisors for 1878 a majority appeared to be in favor of a return to the old system. The reforms proposed were disregarded ; resolutions were passed supporting the commissioners of charities in their plan to distribute relief as in former years, both provi sions and coal ; and the efforts of the visitation committee seemed to have been completely overthrown.
It was already known to the committee, through pre vious investigation, that the distribution of outdoor relief to able-bodied paupers in Brooklyn was not, in fact, author ized by the state legislation relating to the subject. The question now arose as to whether this fact should be brought up, and a complete stop in all outdoor relief be forced upon the supervisors and commissioners of charities, or whether they should be allowed to go on without re straint in the old way. There seemed to be no possibility of a middle course. It was decided after deliberation that, while the cutting off of both coal and provisions might entail temporary suffering among the poor, it was yet better to bring the matter to this sharp issue than to allow a resumption of the former methods. The question was therefore brought to a legal issue. The supervisors consulted their attorney, and found that the whole system of outdoor relief as in vogue for years past was entirely illegal, as far as it related to able-bodied paupers. This, of course, overthrew the entire system in a moment.' 1 It is necessary to add, however, that the city until 1899 made small annual appropriations to certain relief societies engaged in the care of the poor in their homes. This anomalous policy was then discontinued on the recommendation of the city controller.
To the surprise of those interested in the private relief agencies of the city, no increasing demand for aid resulted. The winter passed favorably, and no exceptional suffering seemed to have appeared. The statistics of the following years, appended below, show this to be an actual fact. Not only was there no additional demand on private relief agencies, but the almshouses of the county did not become overcrowded, as was anticipated. In short, nowhere along
the whole line of relief agencies was there found an in creased demand upon their resources. On the contrary, the figures show a steady decrease in the years following 1878. Part of this decrease is due undoubtedly to the general improvement in business prosperity succeeding the crisis of 1873, which now began to take full effect. Still, the statistics seem to indicate that the abolition of outdoor relief in Brooklyn resulted in a real improvement of the status of the very poor. Aside from these figures, so far has public sentiment supported the conviction which they express that, for the twenty years intervening be tween 1878 and the present, not once has there been any agitation in Kings County for the resumption of outdoor relief.
Washington. — In Washington the only public outdoor relief has been that distributed through the police depart ment. There are no officials connected with the chari table administration of the District of Columbia exactly corresponding to the charities commissioners, overseers of the poor, or similar officials in other cities. The position of superintendent of charities was created on August 6, 1890, " for the purpose of securing more equitable and efficient expenditure of the several sums appropriated for charities." All appropriations for charitable purposes were expended under his general direction, and in con formity with a system or plan formulated by him, subject to the approval of the commissioners of the district, but the relief of destitute persons in their own homes was not made a part of the duty of the superintendent or of his subordinates. In 1900 a board of charities was created to discharge the duties formerly devolving on the superin tendent. A lump sum has usually been appropriated by Congress "for relief of the poor." For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1897, this amount was $13,000. It was distributed by the commissioners of the District of Colum bia, in accordance with the recommendation of the super intendent of charities, as follows : — For physicians to the poor . . . . . . . V,200For medicines and printing prescriptions for the physicians to the poor . . . . . 3,400 For the woman's dispensary . . . 500 For the aged women's home . . . 300 For coffins for the indigent dead . . . . 300For emergency relief of cases investigated through the police department on order of the commissioners of the District of Columbia, on recommendation of the superintendent of charities, to he distributed in provisions, fuel, or cloth ing through the police . . . 1,300Total, 813,000 The only part of this expenditure which corresponds with ordinary public outdoor relief is the $1300 desig nated for emergency relief through the police department. This allowance from the public treasury was usually con siderably increased by private donations. In the winter of 1894-1895 the citizens' relief committee, which consists of private citizens acting upon invitation of the commis sioners, gave through the police department $6284.26, one-fourth of the total amount disbursed by the relief committee in that year.