The Latest: Red Cross changes visit policy after criticism

January 3, 2018

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett speaks to reporters outside his office about the Red Cross asking fire victims in some parts of the city to come to them or a nearby police station on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Milwaukee. The Red Cross Milwaukee chapter said the policy change is to address a volunteer shortage, but the move has sparked outrage because the areas affected are low-income and predominantly black and Latino. (AP Photo/Ivan Moreno)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Latest on the Red Cross in Milwaukee’s decision to continue sending volunteers to fire victims (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the local American Red Cross was “operating in goodwill” when it briefly implemented a policy asking fire victims in predominantly black and Latino areas to travel for services.

The Red Cross of Wisconsin rescinded the policy Wednesday after backlash from elected officials who said the change appeared discriminatory. Local Red Cross officials said they were simply trying to use staff more effectively in the busiest neighborhoods because of a shortage of volunteers.

Barrett says the Red Cross’ Milwaukee chapter didn’t “understand the ramifications of the decision and how it would be perceived.” He says residents should receive the same services regardless of where they live, and that the episode is an opportunity to recruit more volunteers.


2 p.m.

The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is reversing itself.

The agency says it will continue sending volunteers out to help fire victims after facing backlash over a plan to have residents from predominantly black and Latino areas travel to them for services.

Regional Chief Executive Officer Patty Flowers said in a statement Wednesday that the agency’s decision was “insensitive to the communities we serve.”

The agency rolled out a new policy in late December that called for people in 10 ZIP codes to go to a nearby police station or a Red Cross office for help. Flowers had said the group was short on volunteers and wanted to use staff more effectively.

But the agency was criticized because the first ZIP codes impacted were all in Latino and black neighborhoods.

Flowers says the agency will “redouble our efforts to recruit more volunteers.”


12:30 a.m.

The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is asking fire victims in some Milwaukee parts to come to them or nearby police stations because of staff shortages.

But the decision has elicited outrage because the areas initially impacted are low-income and overwhelmingly black and Latino.

The Red Cross’ Milwaukee chapter said the change is temporary and will eventually be expanded citywide. But elected officials criticized the rollout in late December because of the impression it gave them.

Alderman Khalif Rainey says it gives the appearance of “red-lining.”

The Red Cross on Tuesday apologized for “any misunderstanding” and said in a statement it was not the agency’s “intent to offend anyone.” The statement said the Red Cross will continue to help fire victims regardless of their Zip code.

Update hourly