Red Cross ‘Failed for 12 Days’ After Historic Louisiana Floods
The American Red Cross at this point seems to be a failed organization, unable to deliver services but still actively seeking contributions. Derek Krovitz reports for ProPublica:
In August, the country’s worst natural disaster since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy hit Louisiana. Flooding killed 13 people and left more than 80,000 homes severely damaged.
And once again, the American Red Cross’ response left local officials seething.
“They failed for 12 days,” the director of a state children’s agency wrote in an email on Aug. 26. He listed a litany of shortcomings: “Food. Donations management. Under staffed.”
Hundreds of Louisiana government documents and emails between officials obtained by ProPublica through freedom of information requests show widespread mismanagement and understaffing at Red Cross-run shelters. Some evacuees went hungry, thirsty and without medical attention as a result.
People at one shelter had “no food or water for 24 hours over the weekend,” wrote the head of a local nonprofit eight days after the flooding began. “A woman gave birth with no medical assistance.” Another day, the shelter served only 195 meals out of 500 because Red Cross workers showed up late.
“People were pretty much just dumped there and forgotten about,” the nonprofit director, Janet Rhodus, told ProPublica. “I just happened to stop in and volunteer and I was appalled.”
State officials shut down the shelter after a week and local nonprofit groups say many area residents are still sleeping in tents, in mold-ridden homes or in their cars.
At the largest Red Cross shelter, inside the Baton Rouge River Center, baby formula was in such short supply that volunteers paid for it out of pocket, state workers found. A truckload of formula was donated by a manufacturer and delivered to a temporary Red Cross warehouse nearby but was left unused for days.
“Red Cross, Red Cross, Red Cross!!!” wrote a deputy to the governor when forwarding a long list of residents’ complaints. In response, another official wrote: “It is a lot to be trying to cleanup their problems as we go.”
The stumbles are part of a long pattern of problematic Red Cross responses to disasters. As ProPublica has detailed, the Red Cross has sharply cut back on local chapters and staffduring CEO Gail McGovern’s decade-long tenure. In a September letter to the government, the ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security said the charity’s “poor performance in disaster response activities across the country has called into question Red Cross’ ability to meet its responsibilities.” And the charity’s troubles in Louisiana this August are similar to complaints aired by local parish officials during a separate round of flooding in March. . .