During the 1930s, the Great Depression took a heavy toll on local families and children. Due to the economic panic, home life for children was often anything but stable. Some mothers and fathers simply deserted their families rather than face the prospect of not being able to feed and clothe their children. Although federal money was appropriated for emergency assistance, none of it went to private agencies. Instead, any assistance had to come from private sector donations. The federal government provided milk and cod-liver oil for undernourished children in schools, but conditions in privately funded children’s homes were in a social upheaval. Even though the Depression years were difficult financially for private organizations dedicated to helping children, institutions like the Porter Home and Leath Orphanage continued diligently in their efforts.
Another incident that caused the Home population to increase was the “great floods of 1937”, which devastated a huge area surrounding Memphis, and thousands of homeless families were brought into Memphis.
As a matter of fact, struggles during the Depression and the great flood helped bring like-minded organizations closer together. For example, Mrs. E.G. Riddick, who was Director of the Children’s Bureau in 1938, also served on the Board of the Porter Home and Leath Orphanage.