Washington's Door -- Again
IN 1940 Bertha McCall presented a paper to the delegates of the National Conference of Social Work entitled "Migrant Problems and the Federal Government." Instead of asking the oft-repeated question, "What can the government do for the transient?", she suggested that a better question might be, "What is the government doing for the transient?" In answer to her question she offered a very optimistic review of current federal activity that was, either directly or indirectly, related to transiency. 1
Included on her list were a multitude of government studies on migration including the long-awaited report by the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, and the many monographs written by WPA researchers. The U.S. Public Health Service, she noted, was also presently conducting studies on the transmission of communicable diseases by migratory people. In addition, she was able to cite various departmental and inter-agency conferences in which related problems had been discussed. More concretely, she referred to the very positive work being done by the Farm Security Administration in its establishment of a network of labor camps for migrants. Most of the progress she was reporting, however, other than the camps, was in the field of study, discussion, and recommendations. Little of it actually served to alleviate the immediate problems faced by the transient citizenry. The federal government had, for all intents and purposes, followed FDR's dictate to "quit this business of relief." The last item on McCall's list, however, showed definite promise.