cloudy
Tuesday April 24th, 2018 8:13AM

Milwaukee Red Cross changes visit policy after criticism

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is abandoning a new policy in Milwaukee that would have forced predominantly black and Latino residents from low-income areas to travel to receive the organization's volunteer assistance after a house fire.

The organization released a statement Wednesday saying it will continue sending volunteers out to help fire victims in the affected neighborhoods. The Red Cross had quickly faced backlash over the policy change, which critics said was discriminatory and favored wealthy residents.

"In an effort to continue to serve people affected by home fires, we recently implemented new procedures in Milwaukee that we now understand were insensitive to the communities we serve," Regional Chief Executive Officer Patty Flowers said in the statement. "We apologize for this mistake and will immediately return to the way we have responded to home fires in the past, consistent with American Red Cross practices and values nationwide."

The agency rolled out a new policy in late December that called for people living in 10 ZIP codes to go to a nearby police station or a Red Cross office for help, rather than volunteers going out to homes in those areas. The organization's Milwaukee chapter had said it planned to expand the policy citywide, but it didn't provide a timeframe.

Flowers had said the group was short on volunteers and wanted to use staff more effectively. On Wednesday, she said resource constraints remain but group will redouble its efforts to recruit more volunteers.

Elected officials had criticized the policy's rollout.

"The optics of it is classic red-lining. It's not simply a race issue. I would say it's a class issue," said Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, who represents one of the ZIP codes affected by the since-thwarted policy.

The agency had said it wanted to use its limited volunteers more efficiently and have them meet victims at a warm and safe location. The Milwaukee chapter had characterized the new policy as a temporary fix.

The Red Cross provides fire victims a place to sleep, food and water, health services including mental health, and help filling out prescriptions among other things.

Under the initial rollout of the policy, more affluent and largely white areas downtown and along the city's lake shore were not impacted.

"When people looked at the map as to the areas that were not being served, I think that raised questions," Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday after meeting with Flowers.

The Milwaukee chapter had said the initial 10 ZIP codes it chose were simply the busiest. They spanned the majority black north side of the city and southern neighborhoods largely populated by Latinos. In one ZIP code on the north side, 53206, nearly half of the residents live below the poverty level.

Some of the ZIP codes first selected also have among the highest crime rates in the city, leading some aldermen to speculate that the Red Cross may also be concerned about volunteer safety.

Barrett said he and Flowers spoke about race, although "not necessarily racism," and "the need to make sure that low-income people who are the victims of fires, that they also receive the same treatment that others receive." He said they're looking at the issue as an opportunity to recruit more volunteers.

Alderman Robert Donovan, who represents a majority Latino district in the southern part of the city, said there's no substitute for having "someone there on site when you need them the most."

"But I can certainly understand the position they're in if indeed it's come down to just fewer and fewer volunteers," he said Tuesday.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Milwaukee Red Cross changes visit policy after criticism
Amid backlash, American Red Cross of Wisconsin abandons new volunteer policy in Milwaukee that critics said was discriminatory
3:46PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Florida sees first snow in decades as storm hits the South
At least 16 deaths have been blamed on dangerously cold temperatures that have for days gripped wide swaths of the U.S. from Texas to New England
3:45PM ( 14 minutes ago )
White House, congressional leaders open talks on spending
Top White House officials and congressional leaders from both parties touched gloves in the Capitol to try to make progress on a stack of unfinished Washington business, starting with a hoped-for bipartisan budget deal
3:42PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Turkish banker's lawyer promises an appeal
A prosecutor calls the conviction of a Turkish banker in a conspiracy to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions a warning to foreign banks not to cheat on sanctions
3:14PM ( 45 minutes ago )
Trump threat to cut aid to Palestinians carries risks
With a Twitter post threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians, President Donald Trump has expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in his hoped-for Mideast peace push
3:14PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Trump blasts Bannon over book, says ex-aide 'lost his mind'
President Donald Trump is blasting his former chief strategist ahead of the release of a new, unflattering book.
2:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Florida sees first snow in decades as storm hits the South
At least 16 deaths have been blamed on dangerously cold temperatures that have for days gripped wide swaths of the U.S. from Texas to New England
3:45PM ( 14 minutes ago )
White House, congressional leaders open talks on spending
Top White House officials and congressional leaders from both parties touched gloves in the Capitol to try to make progress on a stack of unfinished Washington business, starting with a hoped-for bipartisan budget deal
3:42PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Fred Bass, co-owner of beloved Strand bookstore, dead at 89
Fred Bass, co-owner of the beloved Strand bookstore, died Wednesday at age 89
3:40PM ( 19 minutes ago )
GOP's Senate majority shrinks with Jones sworn into office
Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama has been sworn into office, shrinking the Senate's Republican majority.
3:32PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Hungary, Poland see anti-immigration stance spreading in EU
Leaders of Hungary, Poland see anti-immigration stance spreading 'everywhere' in EU
3:31PM ( 28 minutes ago )