How many of us haven't thought about Jane Addams and the Hull House since high school? Even living in Chicago, I pretty much never think about it unless something newsworthy, out of the ordinary happens for me to hear about it. For 122 years, though, the people at the Hull House have been making a difference in Chicago. They offered 50 programs for those in need with services in child welfare & foster care, education & literacy, homeless services including housing, senior services, and services for victims of domestic violence and their children. They were a non-profit organization helping around 60,000 people in Chicagoland.
Today Chicago is different, though. This is the first week in 122 years that the Hull House won't be helping anyone. In a time of shrinking donations, the Hull House has closed its doors, unable to afford to fill the gaps in the government's social safety net.
Some people these days say that government is too big and we should leave the responsibility of taking care of the poor and needy to charity and individuals. I think this is a clear example of why we need the government to maintain services that help the poor. It's great to give a dollar or some food to the homeless man on the corner. It certainly makes us feel a little better in the warmth of our own homes, but it really doesn't help him much. Charity can only do so much, and it can only do it if we as individuals give of our plenty. Unfortunately, too many of us want to keep that plenty (or don't have it ourselves to give), and what we can't do through charity, the government can help to do whether we like it or not. While deficits eventually need to be reined in, it shouldn't be at the expense of greatly needed government aid.