Red Cross volunteers will no longer respond on-site in 10 Milwaukee ZIP codes

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MILWAUKEE -- A change in the American Red Cross policy has some city officials saying it looks like racism.

Under this change, volunteers in Milwaukee will no longer provide on-site response to disasters but only in ten ZIP codes. That's getting the attention of some city leaders.

At the scene of a disaster, the same groups respond: police, fire, and paramedics. In Milwaukee, the Red Cross might still be there too -- it just depends on where that scene is in the city.

"We're still coming into these ZIP codes. Our volunteers are simply changing where we're meeting with the people," said Red Cross Regional CEO, Patty Flowers.

Under the changes, which took effect this month, Red Cross volunteers will no longer go on-site to the following ten ZIP codes:

  • 53204
  • 53205
  • 53206
  • 53208
  • 53209
  • 53210
  • 53215
  • 53216
  • 53218
  • 53233

Instead, they'll meet with victims at the nearest police station or at the Red Cross office. The group says it's better for both volunteers and victims.

Patty Flowers

"In a fire situation, it's really abnormal. It's chaotic, it's cold right now and you've lost everything and everything is crumbing in front of you," Flowers said. "Getting people away from that has proven it's much easier for them to relax."

"I'm certain the reality is they're doing this because of the crime problems," said Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan.

Alderman Bob Donovan questions why the policy only affects the north and near south sides. Why not make it for the entire city?

"If there was a fire right here, right where we're standing, apparently because this is in the 53215 ZIP code, they wouldn't come," said Donovan.

Bob Donovan

North side Alderman Khalif Rainey, slammed the change in a statement Friday, saying "I believe this decision is a slap in the face to the good people who live in the affected ZIP codes, that they will no longer be extended the vital basic human care and courtesy of on-site Red Cross assistance."

Red Cross Regional CEO, Patty Flowers, says she rejects the suggestion that fear of certain neighborhoods drove this decision.

"Safety is always a concern so it's in the conversation. But the reason for this is really to do as efficient as we can," said Flowers.

The Red Cross and mayor's office say they will meet Tuesday, January 2nd to discuss the change. The Red Cross says it does plan on eventually extending the policy to other ZIP codes in the city.