Neighborhood centers developed from settlement houses that emerged in the mid to late 1800's when committed volunteers would "settle" into low income neighborhoods to be a neighbor to all. Settlements started in England, then migrating to Chicago via Jane Addams and then other cities. A settlement house would be opened in an urban slum area and trained workers would endeavor to improve social conditions, particularly by providing community services and promoting neighborly cooperation. These "Settlers" would become neighbors to all and live and work with the families to strengthen family life and develop better neighborhoods. This movement was the incubator for service groups, senior services, cultural and arts classes, and activism on social issues.
Our Early Years
People’s Community Services was founded in 1955 when several Protestant faith-based settlement houses/community centers merged to form our present day organization. These centers included the Delray Neighborhood House (founded in 1920), which is the agency’s oldest, continuous operation and the Dodge Community House (founded in 1923), which was the precursor to the agency’s present day Hamtramck Neighborhood Center. The Centers provided services for youth, senior citizens, and community development, which still form the core of our present day program. In 1977, the agency's Senior Day Time Center was founded.
People’s Community Services has been a participant in the Settlement House/Neighborhood Center movement since its founding. We continue in this rich history by not dispensing charity, but by working with neighbors to help other neighbors to enrich life and build community.
Purpose of Settlement Houses
Settlements serve as community, education, and recreation centers, particularly in densely populated immigrant neighborhoods. Sometimes known as social settlements, they are also called neighborhood houses, neighborhood centers, or community centers.
The settlement house differs from other social welfare agencies; the latter provide specific services, while the former is aimed at improving neighborhood life as a whole. Its role has gradually altered as some of its varied functions have been assumed by state and municipal authorities and by other organizations. Kindergartens, formerly an important adjunct of the settlement house, are now operated by public schools; municipal health departments have taken over its clinical services; and labor unions now sponsor educational and recreational activities for workers.