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A Local War “We will not win our war against poverty,” President Johnson said in August, “until the conscience of the entire nation is aroused.” Sargent Shriver, who will direct the antipoverty program, told Congress earlier in the summer, “The federal government can’t do the job alone. It’s going to take local leadership, local initiative.” Last Saturday in San Marcos Johnson departed from his speech at Southwest Texas State College to announce: “I would like to establish here a job corps training camp to train between 1,000 and 2,000 young men in the skills that will make it possible for them to find rewarding work and to contribute to the prosperity of the community and to ultimately become leaders of their fellow men. If this idea is to become reality your officials and civic and educational leaders must meet and organize and prepare this community to share in a cooperative effort with your government.” Shriver was to visit San Marcos this week to help start the program there, at nearby Camp Gary. money, because such old people can’t buy things. “Poverty and child protection” agreed, in consensus, that a poor child is one who does not have enough food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, sanitation, parental love and acceptance, recognition of his latent talents, and “opportunity to have fun and experience joy.” Such a child is not identified until he hits school, whereupon the school’s middleclass standards are used to measure the degrees of his deprivation. The people discussing how to protect children from poverty agreed local programs need to be put together in elastic responses to different needs; that social workers should do things with poor parents, instead of trying to talk through to them; that volunteers ought to be used in day care and homemaker services; that even the deprived people themselves might be used in programs to help them; and that the social workers themselves have a problem, their own middle-class standards and righteous indignations. A plump young woman, a social worker, rose, and she asked, “Should we try to get down on their level, and scrub floors with them?” Mrs. Lorena Coates, casework supervisor of the Child and Family Service in Austin, said she worked with a middle-class agency supported by middle and upper class people, but that their most rudimentary rule was, “You start where your client is. If it’s scrub the floor, you scrub the floor.” The plump young lady nodded and sat. 4 The Texas Observer down. A middle-aged Negro sitting in the group nodded, too, and said, as to herself : “Yeah, she’s too middle class.” THE CONFEREES came together for lunch, and having suffered through a few pale middle-class jokes, they heard the dean of the conference, Professor Austin from Western Reserve, tell them what they had, in rough, agreed on in their discussions, the minutes of which he had been provided. First, they had said that the services are not always available where the poor are. There are legal and administrative rules that bar some of the poor from the help. Alien aged people can’t get old age assistance in Texas. Unmarried adolescent mothers who are poor are thrown out of school for good: “When the girl becomes pregnant, the school kicks her out and decides that she’s had it as far as further education is concerned,” perpetuating her problem and her poverty. Then, Austin said, they had recognized that as middle-class people they don’t fit poor people well. They use only English with Mexican-American families. Mexican and Negro poor people in Texas have strong group and family feeling, and they resist outsiders, because outsiders so often have hostile attitudes and intentions. Such poor by and large do not have the verbal and writing skills necessary to take advantage of public institutions like schools David M. Austin of Western Reserve University, in his second spech as dean of the Texas social welfare conference, did not limit himself to summarizing what had been agreed on by the Texas social workers; he did not hold himself back from telling them what he thought, himself. The forums were not decision-making or planning groups to decide about specific action, choices, and decisions, he said,. yet “Planning is relatively unimportant unless it is tied to a decision-making process. Planning in a sense only justifies the use of manpower and community time if it relates to the making of decisions. . . . “There was little talk about community budgets for social welfare manpower. There was somewhat fatalistic acceptance that money is not going to be available. Who is finally at fault if we have staff who are assigned a caseload of 300? Or do we at some point, do we say to the community: ‘This is the manpower we have and this is the job we can do. Beyond this the job doesn’t get done.’ ” They should, Austin told these Texans, maintain direct public education programs, not with sob sister cases, but by explaining the relationships of poverty and the wellbeing of the community at points at which people who are not poor are involved. Alliances of interest, addressed to specific issuesthe aged, aid to dependent children, and suchneed to be formed in communi and welfare agencies. Some suggest, leave them alone then; but, said Austin, urban life has become highly complex, and they won’t get needed things if they aren’t integrated; and besides, the economic base they have been sustained bylow-skilled jobsis disappearing, especially because of mechanization. They must move either upward or downward. To them, social workers bring “an institutional system supported by middleclass taxes, middle-class people, operated according to middle-class valuesconcepts of family, cleanliness, good health, achievependability, getting to jobs on time. These are sneered at, but they are very functional values in the kind of society we have. But this creates a very great blockage to communication.” The people in social welfare in Texas agree that there is a lack of money, local and state, for social welfare here. The old do not get enough money; the social workers.. do not have enough money for the social work that needs doing. Finally, Austin said, they agreed that with money for it in such short supply in Texas, fragmentation has set into the social work, and there is rivalry for the available dollar between schools, social work, government, and the churches. There is also much distrust among these institutions, yet many social services depend on their cooperation. ties among educators, social workers, clergymen, labor leaders, civil rights leaders. The poor, too, must be involved. “It was left unanswered how this will happen,” Austin said, and the need for “some kind of guidance” was appropriate for-the Texas Social Welfare Association to address itself to. They had failed, he told them, to actually identify the specific choices to be made in different problem areas; the alternatives; the costs and benefits, pros and cons; and to pin down the decisions that have to be made. The economic opportunity actthe antipoverty actdoes not have enough subsidy in it to go very far, he said, but it can be used to see that the issues are raised and identified at the local level. “You have the same resources and knowledge and information and ability to understand these problems. They can be wrestled with in Texas as effectively as they can be in any other part of the country,” he said. “We must take steps to increase public understanding, use volunteers, hold institutes, bring in outside speakers, even have angry confrontations between minority leaders and business leadership. It can be as simple as a confrontation between members of a low-income neighborhood and the women’s guild of the church you go to. “Knowledge and information and concern and dedication will not solve broad social issues unless society faces the issues and makes decisions about them.” R.D. The Making of Decisions’