Settlement Houses Under Siege: The Struggle to Sustain Community Organizations in New York City

Settlement Houses Under Siege: The Struggle to Sustain Community Organizations in New York City

by Michael Fabricant, Robert Fisher


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Settlement Houses Under Siege: The Struggle to Sustain Community Organizations in New York City examines the past, present, and future of the settlement house in particular and nonprofit community-based services as a whole. Too often viewed as an artifact of the Progressive era, the settlement house remains today, in a variety of guises, a vital instrument capable of strengthening the social capital of impoverished communities. Yet it has been under attack in recent years, particularly in New York City. Cutbacks in social service funding at federal, state, and local levels during the late 1990s left many nonprofit agencies in an essentially untenable position, dependent on a public sector interested primarily in cutting costs. Both this trend and a concomitant shift to privatization continue today, challenging the flexibility and creativity of social service administrators and undermining neighborhoods and community organizations.The findings contained in this book extend well beyond just settlement houses. The tension between the ever more restrictive business practices required by government contracts and the provision of effective social services is a powerful trend in the larger world of nonprofit agencies. Michael B. Fabricant and Robert Fisher offer a ground-level exploration of the complexity of developing and implementing a service-based community-building agenda in a hostile climate. Community building, they argue, will be the most important social service work of the twenty-first century. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with directors and staff members of social service and nonprofit agencies throughout New York City, Settlement Houses Under Siege makes the case for a holistic view of the structural pressures confronting poor communities, one that seeks not only to reposition the idea of social service and revision social assets in a conservative age but also to pose important questions about our broader civic life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231119306
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 03/27/2002
Pages: 289
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.01(d)
Lexile: 1260L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michael B. Fabricant is a professor at the Hunter College School of Social Work.

Robert Fisher is director of urban studies and professor of social work at the University of Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Part 1.History Matters: Settlements and Not-for-Profit Social Service Financing
1.The Settlement House in Context: From Henry Street to Head Start15
2.Privatization, Contracting, and Not-for-Profits Since 197562
Part 2.Contracting and Corporatized Social Services: Voices from the Field
3.Fiscal Instability: Rewriting the Contract99
4.Infrastructural Decline119
5.The Pressures and Fissures of Social Service Work136
6.Scarce Resources: Rationing and Narrowing the Content of Social Services168
7.Navigating the Current Fiscal Turbulence While Struggling to Chart a Social Services Future198
Part 3.Rethinking the Purposes and Practices of Not-for-Profit Social Services
8.From Corporatized Contracting to Community Building233
AppendixMethodology of the Qualitative Inquiry291

What People are Saying About This

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Fabricant and Fisher have given us the gift of an imperative and rewarding study that may help to bolster and galvanize a much needed movement for community and democracy in the twenty-first century.... a splendid antidote to these hard and bitter times.

Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt

Bruce S. Jansson

In a book that is must reading for policy specialists, urban planners, not-for-profit managers, and community organizers, they eloquently implore not-for-profits to view themselves as agents of community empowerment and social change.

Bruce S. Jansson, University of Southern California

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

A masterful dissection of a politically and culturally crucial document.

Allen F. Davis

Settlement Houses Under Siege makes important contributions to the literature on the settlement movement and urban reform. Instead of treating the settlement house as an artifact from the Progressive era, they concentrate their research on New York settlement houses in the 1990s. They conclude that, despite often overwhelming obstacles, settlement workers are still trying to build communities in the urban wilderness.

Allen F. Davis, Temple University

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