Social Solutions to Poverty:
America's Struggle to Build a Just Society
A book by Scott Myers-Lipton


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 Hospitality Houses




With mass poverty and unemployment affecting much of the nation, a variety of social solutions were proposed. Dorothy Day, a Catholic layperson who cofounded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933 with Peter Maurin, developed a three-part strategy to reduce the suffering in New York and beyond. First, the Catholic Worker movement attempted to “clarify” people’s thoughts by

introducing a Catholic social philosophy based on compassion, social justice,

community, nonviolence, and solidarity with workers. This activism took the

shape of forums, lectures, and a newspaper, the Catholic Worker, edited by Dorothy Day. The newspaper critiqued the existing social system from a prophetic biblical tradition. Day and Maurin also developed “Houses of Hospitality” where the homeless and unemployed could live. The houses operated a bread line that fed hundreds of hungry people every day. Day felt that this work of mercy alleviated suffering and demonstrated Catholics’ love for humanity and God. The Catholic Workers initiated farming communes as an alternative to industrial society. Catholic Workers felt that the agricultural life provided people with community, meaningful work, and the ability to control the fundamental activities influencing their lives.


Ultimately, Day and Maurin wanted to create “a society where it is easier to

be good.” Day felt that this required both personal and institutional change. She

called upon individuals to change their hearts in order to serve the poor. Day

argued that “the greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.” At the same time, she believed that institutional change was necessary. It was not enough for people with changed hearts to do good works for the poor; they needed to change the system that caused the oppression. When reflecting upon the lives of the saints, she wondered, “Why was so much done in remedying the evil instead of avoiding it in the first place? . . . Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?”

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)





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