The Settlement Movement
What is a neighbourhood house? What makes a neighbourhood house uniquely different from a community centre and other socal service organizations? The main difference is the philosophy behind the neighbourhood house movement. Neighbourhood Houses bring people together to build and strengthen their communities, which means that every NH is different, reflecting and responding to the needs of the community in which it is located. NH approach everything in a holistic way, dealing with the whole person, the whole family, the whole neighbourhood and the whole community, providing whatever support is needed. It isn’t about providing a program or service to address a specific need, but instead, providing tools and knowledge and practical supports that enable individuals to do for themselves, to improve their quality of life and in some cases, to take on leadership roles in their community. NH recognize that as individuals, we all grow when we have an opportunity to give as well as receive. And that concept of grass roots leadership is one of the main pillars of the Settlement Movement. Neighbourhood houses try to help people to find, not be, the solution. They are one of the most adaptable and flexible tools in the field of social services.
Neighbourhood houses grew out of the Settlement movement which began in England in the 1860’s where the class structure was discriminatory and ingrained and there was a huge gap between the very rich and the very poor. “Settlement” refers to the settlement of some members of the upper classes into the poorest areas of London. That unprecedented move grew out of a deep sense of unease among some of the the well-off and well-educated mid- to late-Victorians, who, to their credit, recognized that the exponential growth of cities during the industrial revolution had resulted in levels of poverty, deprivation, starvation and disease that exceeded anything ever seen before or since. By living alongside these people, sharing their knowledge and skills rather than dispensing charity, they provided the necessary supports that enabled people to begin to improve the quality of their lives. And out of this settlement movement, eventually came the profession of social work.
It is not a case of one set of people giving something that another set receives; it is a pooling by all of us of the best we know how to share. It is a living and sharing of life.
Neighbourhood Houses build safe, inclusive communities where people have a sense of belonging, a sense of place in time and the knowledge that they, as individuals have the ability to make a difference in their own lives, in their neighbourhood and in their community.