Employment

Does a program require work, and does it impart not only job skills but the life skills needed to hold a job?

New York charity leader Josephine Lowell wrote that "the problem before those who would be charitable, is not how to deal with a given number of the poor; it is how to help those who are poor, without adding to their numbers and constantly increasing the evils they seek to cure." If people were paid for not working, the number of nonworkers would increase, and children would grow up without seeing work as a natural and essential part of life. Individuals had to accept responsibility: Governmental programs operating without the discipline of the marketplace were inherently flawed, because their payout comes "from what is regarded as a practically inexhaustible source, and people who once receive it are likely to regard it as a right, as a permanent pension, implying no obligation on their part."

Today, programs that stress employment, sometimes in creative ways, need new emphasis. For example, more of the able-bodied might receive not housing but the opportunity to work for a home through "sweat equity" arrangements in which labor constitutes most of the down payment. Some who start in vigorous programs of this sort drop out with complaints that too much sweat is required. They find champions who would prefer to see a Department of Housing and Animal Development passing out free cages, but one person who stayed in a program said at the end, "We are poor, but we have something that is ours. When you use your own blood, sweat, and tears, it's part of your soul. You stand and say, 'I did it.'"