Red Cross Response To Texan Allegations of Abuse & Neglect

Yesterday, a story we covered regarding accusations of The American Red Cross negligence and mismanagement of disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey went viral. In response to our questions, Jack Wilson, The Red Cross Regional Director of Services to Armed Forces and International Services, has graciously answered our questions and shared The Red Cross response to many accusations which are flooding social media. Here is Jack’s message:


“The American Red Cross is proud to work with ALL of the groups and individuals that are doing tremendous things for Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Disasters of this scale require that entire communities come together.


“In the aftermath of Harvey’s landfall, there were tens of thousands of people in over 280 shelters throughout the impacted area. Throughout the initial response through today’s ongoing recovery efforts and continuing long into the future, the Red Cross has worked and will work hand-in-hand with our partners – local, state, and federal government, other national non-profit organizations, and local groups and individuals – to identify and meet the needs of everyone.

As of Thursday, September 7, the American Red Cross had served over one million meals and snacks in shelters (both Red Cross managed shelters and shelters operated by partners and other community organizations) and from Emergency Response Vehicles in neighborhoods throughout the Gulf Coast and deliver meals directly to those who have returned home and are working to recover. Those vehicles (approximately 200 of them) are also engaged in distributing clean-up kits with the basic supplies needed to deal with the damage of flood waters. As it has always been, all emergency assistance provided by the Red Cross is provided free of charge thanks to the generosity of our donors.

Response operations of this scale are inherently complex, and we know that sometimes conflicting information can arise because everyone affected by this storm has the best interest of these communities at heart. We all want everyone who needs help to get the best help possible as soon as possible.

I’ll do my best to provide answers to the specific questions presented in your article. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach back out to me.

Re: 400 Hamburgers Iced in Nederlands, Texas

“I was trying to bring 400 warm hamburgers to our hungry evacuees, who according to them did not need the food because they had “already had a sandwich.” Yes, they had one sandwich in 24 hours. They were desperate for a hot meal! The Red Cross proceeded to try and load the warm, ready-to-eat burgers into an ice chest.” – Lindsey Scott, Nederland, Texas

Red Cross Response: We have looked into what happened and want to address it directly. The safety of the people we serve is our first and utmost priority. Our volunteers and workers on the ground may not be perfect, but they are all working with the best of intentions and to the best of their ability. Please know that if a volunteer or volunteers steps into a situation, they are not trying to overshadow the generosity or compassion of spontaneous assistance being offered but doing so based on training and past experience with that goal–the evacuees safety–in mind not with an intention to “take charge” or in any way diminish those kind efforts. With donations like food especially, we have policies and procedures in place solely to protect the health of those who may already be in a weakened or vulnerable health state. Even properly prepared food, if not clearly monitored, can quickly go bad through no fault of those who prepared or are serving it – which could make a bad situation worse.

With all that in mind, we have spoken with the Deputy Director of our operation and the volunteers on the scene. Again, while they may have appeared overzealous, they intervened out of a desire to protect those impacted by Harvey, with their health and well-being in mind. Eventually, they assisted in handing out the burgers. These are extremely challenging and often life threatening situations – everybody is trying to meet all needs, while being cut off from the floods. We greatly appreciate not just our volunteers but ALL volunteers and the generous support of the public. We are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures, learning to adapt – because each disaster is different – and learning from experiences.

Re: Understaffed & Mismanaged of Volunteers

There have been numerous accusations of understaffed shelters and distribution centers, and several people expressed how difficult it was to volunteer in a timely manner.

Red Cross Response: Please know that we are working tirelessly to process all of the volunteer requests that we’re getting. We apologize for any delay or confusion. We’re so excited that you signed up, stepped up and want to help our fellow Americans. Our volunteer services teams have seen an overwhelming number of volunteers come out to serve. This is wonderful, and we are still trying to organize our now very large workforce.

Especially as Hurricane Irma bears down on the Southeastern United States, this need for volunteers will not go away. Recovery efforts here in Texas will continue, and the Red Cross remains committed to helping those in need here as we leverage our national (and international) workforce of staff and volunteers to prepare for similar efforts in Florida. That means that we will continue to need volunteers to stand up in their local communities to join us, lending their time and talents, which are absolutely vital. The outpouring of people excited to do something to help has been inspiring. We ask that those ready to join our team to visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Re: No Elderly or Infants Allowed

‘I asked two head men in charge why there were so many carts available, and he said because they aren’t letting people with infants, elderly, or singles in. They said no infants because the diaper mess, elderly it would be too much dealing with them as in care.’ – Titía Monet, Houston, Texas

Red Cross Response: Red Cross services are available to EVERYONE affected by Hurricane Harvey (and any of the other innumerable disasters impacting America). For details on specific measures we take to ensure access for everyone, I can connect you with the leaders of that department who are integrated in every one of our efforts ranging from sheltering to logistics to bulk distribution and beyond.

Services also extend beyond food and shelter. Our Disaster Health Services and Disaster Mental Health Services volunteers, who are licensed nurses and other providers and just wonderful human beings, as well as our Spiritual Care teams are always on-hand to meet the needs of individuals and to provide specialized care whenever and wherever the need exists.

Last week, while parts of the state were completely cut off due to still-rising flood waters, the American Red Cross and our partners worked together to deliver a specific type of baby formula that was otherwise unreachable at the time to a family in need in Silsbee, Texas, via helicopter.

Re: Distribution of Supplies

‘We have some of the correct kind [of baby formula] up on the 3rd floor but, “Lady, you can’t take that. The Red Cross wants to hand it out.” Are you kidding me? Well, when and where? Do I tell a 2 month old that he needs to wait until a certain day? Not just baby formula. It’s this way with every supply these people need just to survive in the shelter. – Lisa Block Sailor, Houston, Texas

Red Cross Response: In order to distribute much needed emergency supplies in all of the communities affected by the disaster, the Red Cross cooperates with community organizations including local churches and other facilities to serve as Distribution Centers. These partnerships allow us to receive, store, and then distribute supplies to where they are needed in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Plans like these that identify potential locations and partners for shelters and distribution centers are a shining example of how communities coming together in advance of emergencies improve everyone’s ability to get supplies to the people who need them.


We’d like to thank Jack Wilson of The Red Cross for responding to our questions and our readers concerns. If you have questions for Jack, please post them below in the comments and we’ll do our best to get answers for you. Thank you for reading and sharing this story! We will update with more on-the-ground Hurricane Harvey stories from across Texas, so stick with us over the next few weeks.


Check out our Hurricane Recovery Kit for Helpful Tips, Disaster Unemployment Help, and How to Apply for FEMA Aid and Harvey Disaster Relief.

Featured Photo: This is Diesel, Chris Long’s service dog. Late at night on Sunday, August 27 at a Red Cross shelter in Texas, Diesel alerted others that Chris was having a stroke. Without his service dog, Chris would not have gotten the medical attention he needed while staying at the shelter. Chris said, “The Red Cross, ya’ll are good people. If you need something they got you.” (Photo by Chuck Haupt / American Red Cross)

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30 thoughts on “Red Cross Response To Texan Allegations of Abuse & Neglect

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    1. WHAT exactly did he answer ??? It read like a computer based one size fits all . No ” Actual ” defense . There are WAY to many stories from THOUSANDS of people that say the same thing . The Red Cross is NOT a place to give money too , and they do NOT care about the people ! Plain and Simple . .. I mean COME ON !!!! Babies going without formula because it ” isn’t time ” to hand it out ? !!!!!!!!!!!! Cots UNUSED because it ” isn’t for them ” !!!!!

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  1. As a mom, the “answer” to the formula question is bugging me. It can be handed out for an immediate need. Why would that immediate need be over shadowed by a plan to distribute at a later date? What child deserves the food more? One who needs it now or one who MIGHT need it later?

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  2. Sure did use a lot of words to say a lot of nothing.
    I would like to know who put the RC in charge to take the donated items to hand out. Could the government officials not do something about this? The Mayor(s) or the Governor?
    If you give it to a church or just bring it in you should be able to give it to the people without RC putting their hands on it. I understand health and safety issues, but it doesn’t really seem like they were really worried about that if they were not feeding people, leaving them in wet clothing or giving them a decent place to rest.

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  3. Every time there is a disaster, we hear complaints. No matter where the RC is, the complaints are the same. With all of that, why isn’t something done to correct the problems? I am the last person to ask the government to step more into our lives, but this what they are actually supposed to do! Start an investigation at both the state and federal levels. These are not just people who want to vent on someone. These are real problems, that only seem to get answered with the same BS answers as above. If it’s to much for the RC to handle, let other groups help. I don’t know what the solution is. I do it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

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  4. Sounds like a lot of excuses to me. Didn’t really address the issues but just talked around them. My money is going to The Salvation Army and AKC Reunite who is helping take care of the pets that are with those in the shelters and helping shelters reunite lost pets with their owners (unlike A$PCA, H$U$ and PETA who are stealing them and sending them thousands of miles away to insure their owners never get them back).

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  5. I suppose in this day and age there are still those who read these words and still believe they were told something but an ever growing number of us are getting quite savvy to the spin these multimillion dollar “charities” dole out.

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  6. To properly translate his words:
    We did nothing but get in the way. Look at our pretty logo though. You want to volunteer, but you must jump through our hoops to do it since we arrived. We’d just go away, but look at our pretty logo. We are the Red Cross, and we’re here to help you. Move over.

    Ugh! Texas can take care of themselves if the Red Cross will go away!

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  7. I remember hurricane Ike and how the RC had 18 wheelers full of water waiting to be distributed while the organization decided the “best” distribution sites. This was summer in Texas and people everywhere had no electricity or access to clean water. Ed Emmett became my hero when he took over and just announced sites that people could have access to this bare necessity! Volunteers ( not RC) were ACTUALLY able to organize cars lining up in parking lots (yes, I’m being sarcastic) for the water to be efficiently distributed. Ed Emmett was right there sweating with everyone else lugging the cases of water to waiting cars! No one had to show proof of how many were in their family so they received their “fair share” or residency to “qualify”. The need was too obvious! Wisdom and common sense prevailed!

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  8. He still hasn’t answered as to why infants and elderly were turned away. Not buying the foodsafe thing with the burgers either . If that were true, they wouldn’t have served them period. But they did. Ice cold. Do they really think we are that complacent and ignorant that we will be ok with his explanation?

    America…..my prayers are with you. I have been spreading the word too. Red cross is one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet. 90% of profits go to them. If youre going to give, give local. Kat broek-(Canada)

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  9. Still waiting for an answer he must be a former politician the way he answered he danced to many songs but not to the one that was playing
    We’ve known for years about the red crossers

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  10. This is an example of a bureaucrat who is out of touch. He’s more interested in giving you the PR self congratulations rather than addressing the problems. This is how nothing gets done. They need to be responsive to immediate needs — more flexible and spontaneous than regimented bean counters. They suck.

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  11. I appreciate that Red Cross actually responded to the allegations, but as a citizen of Texas with family in and around Houston who actually experienced some of what has been read above I am appalled by the non answers. This behavior is unacceptable from an organization with such a seasoned reputation. Luckily people from unaffected parts of Texas and the rest of our beautiful Country came together in a way that reminds you why it’s still America the Beautiful.

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  12. Geez. I don’t really see anything other than beating around the bush! The hamburger answer makes him look pathetic. We are concerned for the safety…. the hamburgers eventually were handed out???? Wth??? So they were concerned for a little while!😂😂 what it sounds like to me! Red Cross is and always has been a joke! Just wait, Harvey victims…. wait til you see that box of supplies!

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  13. Circumlocution at its finest! Talked circles around the question but if you strip it down, not a single question was answered. Lots and lots of words…

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  14. I want to know the same thing others do: why is he unavle/unwilling to answer a direct specific question directly?? How long did he have to memorize the scripted answers? Is the RC so arrogant that they can dismiss us with bs platitudes, figuring the rest of us are too stupid to realize i?? Bad bad bad karma..

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  15. Babble babble, that’s all this guy did. He did not directly address anything other than the hamburger situation and even then he said they LATER distributed the burgers. This was after placing them on ice. Pretty sure all the warmth was gone from them by then. I stopped donating to the red cross years ago, they are a useless anachronism and need to fold up entirely.

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  16. These comments and stories are so discouraging to read. But, having experienced how the RedCross works personally, I believe this organization needs to be carefully investigated. When I asked for help years ago to get to my severely injured military son I was told I couldn’t get help from the office I called because I didn’t live in that county. I happened to be taking a summer class at a university in another county. They were unwilling to help and all but hung up on me when I pleaded. My local chapter was no better. My contributions for relief are made to the organization run by the United Methodist Church..UMCOR. When I read what the CEO of the Red Cross makes annually I knew that I would never contribute to that organization.

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  17. I just discovered this conversation and I’m not surprised to hear the complaints and BS responses from a Red Cross PR guy. I was a volunteer logistics leader at Red Cross in Central Texas for over five years. As a retired logistics manager, I was well qualified for the work, and enjoyed contributing to the laudable mission of the Red Cross. I quit a few days after the Hurricane Harvey response began after I suffered rude and insulting comments from fellow volunteer leaders. The complaints mentioned above are repeated during every big disaster response. Mismanagement of operations and bullying of volunteers are ingrained parts of the culture. Don’t take my word for it, just do web searches for many examples.

    The American Red Cross prides itself on the fact that less than 10% of the workforce is paid staff. The flip side of this is that key management roles at the local level, where disaster responses begin, are managed by a small group of long-term volunteers who do not necessarily have the skills to get the job done. Key functions are managed by people whose leadership is based on long-established procedures with little interest in creativity or improved operating procedures. Upper level staff provide little guidance and support. Suggestions and efforts to improve procedures are met with disdain, contempt or they are simply ignored. During large disaster responses, key decisions are centralized in Washington in a bureaucracy that would rival any department of the federal government. The CEO of the Gulf Coast Region of Red Cross, David Brady, resigned from his position because of this sclerotic culture. As quoted in the Houston Business Journal, Brady said, “I found myself in disagreement too often with decisions that were being made as it related to Hurricane Harvey recovery.”

    Additionally, after my experience of abuse from other volunteers, I learned that Red Cross has an independent Ombudsman. This is not a fact that is openly shared with volunteers. I thought I might get some action towards my complaint. After an initial quick response to hear my complaint, the conversation ended. Here we are over three months after I contacted the Ombudsman and there was never a response to my complaint. Similarly, I contacted the Central and South Texas Regional Volunteer Services Manager. This group of paid staff handles the human resources function for volunteers at Red Cross. Like deja vu, she listened to my complaint, promised to investigate and get back to me, then I never heard from her again.

    So for anyone thinking about volunteering for Red Cross, my experience filled with frustration, mismanagement, waste and abuse, says don’t do it.

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