St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

Settlement house: methods and goals

“A settlement is first of all a house, where the workers eat and sleep and meet their friends and neighbours. They do not swoop down upon the community from another sphere to change its ways; they are already on the ground, twenty-four hours in the day, seven days in the week, working out through the very heart of the neighbourhood. And thus it is that a settlement is not a charity; it is not a case of one set of people giving something that another set receives, it is a pooling by all of us best we know how to share.  It is a living and a sharing of life,” Helen Hart, first Executive Director of St. Christopher House, 1915.

The programs offered at St. Christopher House reflected the dual aims of the settlement: to Christianize and to Canadianize. Originally, the staff assumed that the traditional influence of family and school was weakened by the social conditions of the slums, so programs were designed to provide a good education in an ethical and spiritual environment, modeled after the middle class, Anglo-Saxon Christian home, despite the fact that a third of the participants were Jewish. Self-governing clubs with an emphasis on democratic procedures formed the basis of activity, as they did in most settlements. There was usually a household sciences teacher on staff, who taught the women food shopping and preparation and budgeting. Girls were taught sewing and cooking until domestic science became a part of the school curriculum. The House also offered classes in English, singing and dressmaking. Bible classes and Sunday School meetings were also held for the children.

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