Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Relearning the Value of Private Charity

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Relearning the Value of Private Charity

The cause behind the "More for Enforcement, Less for Assistance" phenomenon in Michael Lee Pope's feature about Alexandria spending more on policing but less on social services, ironically, is on the very next page. "Food for Everyone During Pandemic" reports how effectively non-profits such as ALIVE! have provided social service assistance. No government bureaucracy could have adapted as readily to the challenges the coronavirus pandemic suddenly wrought as Shirley Ruhe's feature describes ALIVE! and other charitable groups accomplishing simply because the private sector is better suited to providing social services. Our society forgot this during the New Deal and Great Society, with the effect that governmental welfare programs grew up to have ugly unintended consequences of generational welfare dependency, but since Bill Clinton's Welfare Reform in the mid 1990s, our society is relearning the value of private charity. In the past two decades Alexandria's charitable sector has grown enormously in response not only to the need, but also the realization that private charities with motivated volunteers and entrepreneurial leadership can address social services more effectively than government bureaucracies. Fruitcycle/Together We Bake, in which Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, even before becoming vice mayor, played a leading role, is another example of private charity accomplishing social good which governmental bureaucracy could not.

Michael Pope's feature covers the full range of issues this budgetary phenomenon raises by noting that some social services are included in policing. We do need to be vigilant, though, more so than our Commonwealth Attorney seems to realize when he insists that the right response to criminal behavior is not only jail, but "addressing the root causes." But jail is the right answer for these perpetrators because, not only is it a place where social services can be administered, putting them there pronto prevents the kinds of harm past experience has shown they can do.

Dino Drudi