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Abstract

Interviews with 112 household respondents and 58 social service agency directors in three ethnically and racially distinct Chicago neighborhoods provided a comprehensive assessment of -- household helping relationships in a community context. Reliance on informal helping greatly exceeded use of formal agencies at the household level. Households were twice as likely to give help as receive it in a complex variety of ways, while agencies struggled to add new functional programs in a time of retrenchment. What households gave and got did not overlap with agency programs in any coherent way. Further, household respondents and agency directors disagreed in their perceptions of community needs. Households wanted employment and general city services, while agency officials emphasized human services. In effect, efforts to tie formal and informal helping relationships together at a community scale will have to respect the complexity and reciprocity of informal helping by reformulating how the needy are identified, emphasizing reciprocity versus expertise in helping and expanding what presently count as program needs to include a wider range of services.

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