Settlement houses help the poor more directly than charities.
Settlement houses help the poor more directly than charities.

Both charity organizations and settlement houses provide value to the communities they serve. However, they work in very different ways. Settlement houses are intended to serve a community of individuals by offering a broad range of services, while charities raise funds for various causes and organizations. The biggest difference between a settlement house and a charity is in the treatment of individuals.

Settlement House and Social Work History

The first American settlement houses formed in the early 20th century with the influx of immigrants to the United States. These houses formed very close to the formation of social work as a profession and reflect the profession's work. By 1918 more than 400 settlement houses provided services for communities across the nation.

Charitable organizations existed centuries before settlement houses and social work. The organizations were primarily run by wealthy women with little professional training. While the funds raised at charitable organizations through bazaars and balls were helpful to the poor, they did little to help individuals better themselves.

What a Settlement House Provides

A settlement house provides services to a community. These can range from citizenship classes and test preparation to after-care programs for children of working parents. What a settlement house provides cannot be understood simply in terms of services, but rather the mindset behind these services. Settlement houses aim to improve the general welfare by giving individuals the opportunities necessary to better themselves. Rather than dispense charity to a needy family, a settlement house works with job placement and health care to give the needy family the tools it truly needs to be self-sustaining.

How It Differs From a Charity

A charitable organization simply raises money for various causes and organizations. Those involved focus mainly on gleaning funds from the wealthy and elite of society, in stark contrast to those who run settlement houses whose primary interactions are with the members of under-served communities. While charitable organizations might donate money that helps to fund a settlement house, settlement houses donate time to communities of people.