By Nyesha Stone
The American Red Cross of Wisconsin has a history of helping the community in disasters, well, because it’s their mission.
According to their website, 90 percent of the disasters Red Cross responds to are house fires. With a new policy put into place a few weeks prior, Red Cross decided to no longer provide on-site assistance to victims of house fires in ten Milwaukee zip codes, which are predominantly African American and Hispanic populated: 53204, 53205, 53206, 53208, 53209, 53210, 53215, 53216, 53218 and 53233.
According to CEO of Wisconsin American Red Cross Patty H. Flowers, this policy was put into place because of safety issues, those zip codes are known to have high crime rates, and because of the lack of volunteers.
According to their website, 95 percent of their disaster relief workers are volunteers.
With this new policy, those ten zip codes would have to go to Red Cross to receive the help that would usually be brought to their homes. And although free transportation would be provided to the victims, this policy didn’t take well with the community because they felt this policy change would negatively affect those zip codes.
In the community’s eyes, they believe Red Cross is saying the inner-city of Milwaukee is too dangerous to receive their on-site assistance, so the community fought back.
Mayor Tom Barret, Ald. Johnson and many other prominent leaders in Milwaukee disagreed with the change of policy and publicly voiced their opinion. After much scrutiny from the community, on Jan. 3, Flowers sent out a statement to the press stating that Red Cross would be going back to their original policy that provides on-site assistance to all zip codes.
“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. 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,” Flowers wrote in the statement.
This shows when the community unites and uses their voice, power and will change can happen. But now comes the question who will step up and help Red Cross with their lack of volunteers?
The community was outraged at the change, but not many openly said they’d become volunteers. To help keep these ten zip codes, and all zip codes, receiving on-site assistance, people of the community need to help out.
To sign up to become a volunteer apply at http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-avolunteer#step1.