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What is a Settlement House?

Education Alliance Robert F Kennedy"…the aim of the settlement or neighborhood house is to bring about a new kind of community life…It is in the community or neighborhood that people seek and fight for solutions to their concrete, daily, local and immediate problems. Although the community remains the focus of the settlement’s attention, it is through the personalized and direct involvement with the individual, in the context of the family—often throughout a lifetime—that the settlement fosters and supports the values of fellowship and mutual support."
—Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch

A settlement house—sometimes also called a community or neighborhood center—is a neighborhood-based organization that provides services and activities designed to identify and reinforce the strengths of individuals, families and communities. Varying according to the needs of their neighborhoods, settlement programs may include: job training and employment programs, early childhood education, afterschool youth programs, arts education and performances, computer labs, English-as-a-Second-Language and literacy education, citizenship instruction and legal counseling, mental health and home care, housing, senior centers and Meals-on-Wheels. Settlement houses also offer opportunities for community service: holding forums on local concerns, registering voters, and providing information about citywide issues.

Settlements engage their neighbors in the planning and design of their programs, and they provide assistance and space to individuals and groups in efforts to solve community problems. Many people who participate in settlement programs live within walking distance; typically, many staff are also neighborhood residents.