The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Vertas et Prævalebit. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1890. DISTRIBUTING CHARITY.
Every person directly associated with the distribution of charity has arrived at the conclusion that a, grave mistake is made when alms or assistance is given to everyone who asks. The practice is freely condemned as one almost entirely responsible for the vast armies of professional beggars and mendicants who infest large centres of population, and towards whose support the State and the individual daily contribute. A begging letter, a pitiful tale of want and suffering, a few hypocritical tears—these are the stock-in-trade of professional pauperism, and highly remunerative they have proved and are daily proving m almost every country m the world. The stream of charity which should constantly flow towards deserving and bona fide helpless persons is turned aside, and the hypocritical, indolent, and designing wax strong and grow fat. The days of the professional pauper would appear, how- j ever, to be numbered, as m all countries a strict supervision is being exercised over the distribution of public charity, and private persons are being warned not to give to everyone who asks before taking steps to investigate into the circumstances of each and every case. In distributing public charity m New Zealand of late years the utmost precautions have been taken to prevent the ratepayers' money from being frittered away or given to undeserving persons. The closest scrutiny and the keenest supervision is exercised to prevent, if possible, the raising of a host of professional beggars who are too indolent to work to provide themselves with the necessaries of life. In the matter of private charity, on the other hand, the system of overlapping and indiscriminate giving is a fruitful source of anxiety to those, who while earnestly desirous of helping all who are m. distress, are nevertheless most anxious to prevent professional itnposters from trading upon the credulity of the people. What appears to be required to correct this evil is the establishment throughout the colony of branches of a Charity Organisation Society similar to that recently organised m Melbourne, the object of which is to make searching inquiries into cases of alleged distress, and report to those who are disposed to assist. The general public, m giving chanty, have no means of knowing whether or not the applicants are deserving, and to set on a personal inquiry for themselves is not convenient and would probably result unsatisfactorily. But with the establishment of a Charity Organisation such as that recently organised m Melbourne, whose object is not to directly dispense charity, but rather to conduct the affairs of a private charity inquiry office m the interests of private and public charity organisations as well as private persons, there would be no difficulty m ascertaining whether applicants for relief were deserving of help or otherwise. At such an office a list of persons who live by begging could be kept, and at the same time other valuable, information and advice be given to benevolently disposed persons, which would go a long way towards putting down the evil of professional pauperism. During the past year the Melbourne society have had "345 cases submitted to them for investigation, and of this number only 102 were reported as genuine, the balance being ticked as unsatisfactory or doubtful. The small percentage of genuine cases m this instance is truly astonishing, and shows the extent to •which a number of persons will go i i order to impose upon their fo'lows. Of the 345 cases referred to 256 were males, thus proving, what has been frequently asserted by those m charge of charity distribution, that the number of medicant impostors is largely composed of men who are too lazy to work. There is too much reason to fear that, if a like number of cases were handed over to a similar body m New Zealand, the proportion of imposters or undeserving cases would be found almost as large as that m the sister colony. Fortunately our State system of Charitable Aid is not imposed upon to the same extent as formerly, the police rendering valuable assistance to the public bodies m reporting upon doubtful cases submitted to them. This precaution, unfortunately, fails to cover the whole ground, and only assists to check professional pauperism, not to suppress it. It is upon private charity that mendicants and professional importers principally exist, and it Is only by the establishment of Boards of Inquiry similar to that m working order m Melbourne that such cases can be efficiently dealt with. The principle upon which such institutions exist is to carry out the precept: "If a man will not work (and is able to do so) neither shall he eat."