Public relief was initially provided through programs administered by the town, county, and, increasingly in the second half of the nineteenth century, the state, which developed as the need for assistance grew more acute. Private charities, both secular and religious, also oﬀered an important and extensive supply of relief. While their sources of funding diﬀered, public and private philanthropic agencies supported similar institutions such as hospitals, almshouses, and orphanages that provided custodial or rehabilitative care.
For Peabody, the purpose of charity was to aid in social progress by developing social reliance, which could be achieved through the provision of temporary housing for the homeless, medical care for the aged and inﬁrm, classes in industrial trades and domestic science, and other related services. He felt that charitable institutions should oﬀer evidence of the power and importance of idealism and should focus on character building, as a way of instilling in aid recipients the initiative required for self-help.