Red Cross disputes claims Milwaukee family was not provided assistance after house fire

MILWAUKEE -- A family who lost everything in a house fire says they were discriminated against because of their ZIP code. At a press conference on Thursday, January 4th, that family claimed the American Red Cross turned them away -- but the Red Cross says the family received hundreds of dollars.

It was a devastating fire that happened near 21st and Concordia, on December 28th.

"We pulled up, the house was just in flames," said Latressa Turner.

Latressa Turner lost everything when her house went up in flames. The family claims they were dealt a double blow when they tried to get help from the Red Cross.

Fire at 21st and Concordia

"When I walked in, they said because of the ZIP code they could not help us," said Turner.

Latressa Turner

The family claims they fell victim to a new policy. In mid-December, the Red Cross changed policy in ten Milwaukee ZIP codes. Volunteers would no longer be meeting victims on-site, but instead at police stations and community centers.

The policy was short-lived due to community backlash. Under the rules, no one would have lost assistance, according to the Red Cross. Turner says that's exactly what happened when they left the Red Cross headquarters empty handed.

Thursday, Tory Lowe -- a community activist -- blasted the Red Cross.

"This is something that we just can't tolerate," Lowe said.

Hundreds have been raised on a GoFundMe site, and bags of donations were handed out following the media event.

In response, the Red Cross says this is simply not true. They released the following statement:

"We saw the media interview tonight on the Fox 6 News site, and have several important points to correct.

"The American Red Cross has consistently responded to every family in need following recent house fires in the Milwaukee area, regardless of zip code, and we will continue to do so. We disagree with the assertions in this broadcast, as the family in your piece was directly provided with several hundred dollars of emergency financial assistance on December 28, 2017 after a meeting at the American Red Cross office at 2600 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233."

"Further, the American Red Cross is not a government agency, we do not receive federal assistance to support local responses to home fires, nor do we issue federal assistance."

Lowe, the activist who helped raise over $1,000 on a GoFundMe page for the family, partly on premise the Red Cross didn't help out -- is standing by the family. He's adamant the family did not receive any assistance. He would like the Red Cross to show records proving the family was paid.

 

The Red Cross say they are sticking to their statement.