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Milwaukee Aldermen Raise Concerns About Red Cross Changes

Red Cross Fire Response Teams Now Provide Services To Victims Off-Site In 10 Milwaukee ZIP Codes

Red Cross shelter
An evacuee from the Goodwin fire enters a Red Cross shelter, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Prescott Valley, Ariz. Matt York/AP Photo

Officials in Milwaukee are criticizing the American Red Cross Wisconsin Region’s decision not to send on-site fire response teams to parts of the city.

The Red Cross said residents of 10 city ZIP codes will now receive services at a local police station or at ARC headquarters.

In a statement 7th District Alderman Khalif Rainey said he was concerned the change would disproportionately hurt people of color.

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“The Red Cross sends its volunteers to war torn countries and places where devastating catastrophes have struck, but no longer feels they can go to certain Milwaukee neighborhoods to serve their fellow Milwaukeeans who are suffering,” Rainey said.

Eighth District Alderman Bob Donovan told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, “It’s telling me Milwaukee’s inner city is perceived to be unsafe by the Red Cross.”

Patty Flowers, ARC Regional CEO for Wisconsin, said the organization chose those ZIP codes to institute the policy because those are the areas where it does most of its fire response.

She said while safety is always a top concern, she said the ARC is looking to streamline its response, and that providing services off-site, as they already do in other parts of the state, is effective and safe.

“On a fire scene, it’s an abnormal place,” Flowers said. “And when you’re in the middle of it, going through it, it’s very traumatic. Taking them somewhere else, it’s a much better situation.”

Flowers said the move is not aimed at cutting costs or making services less accessible for those who need them.

“We are not changing our response, as far as helping clients,” she said. “Those clients are absolutely going to be helped. We’re only changing where we’re meeting them.”

Flowers said she’s set to meet Tuesday with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to address concerns about the change.