A couple of stories are surfacing about the difficulty of getting aid from the Red Cross in the wake of Katrina. Friday afternoon, WWL-TV reported the situation in Baton Rouge, where the Red Cross opened a center to dispense--where have we heard this before?--debit cards, then closed it down because the crowds were larger than anticipated.
And then there's this, emailed from a friend:
This is from New Orleans artist Dawn Dedeaux who has been on the Gulf Coast
To Whom It May Concern:
I realize the Red Cross has the best of intentions, but most of the
storm victims I have met still cannot get through to the RED CROSS on
the one and only 800 number that is circulated.
I have been trying to contact the RED CROSS every day for the past
month and the line is always busy.
Curiously, yesterday an ad appeared asking people to DONATE to the RED
CROSS. The following number was provided: 1 800 HELP NOW.
It appears to "give" to the RED CROSS is far easier than to "receive."
I got through immediately.
Was this just luck? In the form of an experiment, I have called the
donation phone number ten times in the past two days. Each time I
successfully get through to a REAL person. Each time I have identified
myself as a displaced citizen wanting to process for assistance. I am
repeatedly instructed to call the same old number that I have tried for
the past month -1 800 975-7585. When I offered my constructive protest,
and asked that my call be "transferred" to an assistance person, I was
told that there was no way to transfer my call and that I had to go
through a special 800 number. The number given each time is the same
number I had been calling for the past month to no avail.
You can test the accessibility for yourself.
Again, intentions are not in question, but efficiency and management
are. To think that Americans have so generously contributed to this
organization and yet the Red Cross has not been able to increase their
availability. WHAT ABOUT USING SOME OF THE MONEY TO ADD A FEW PHONE
LINES? WHAT ABOUT USING SOME OF THE MONEY TO PAY SOME OF THE REFUGEES
TO ASSIST WITH PHONE TRAFFIC? This is only common sense.
People not only try to reach the RED CROSS by phone. Many have
traveled to a Red Cross Shelter. But most of the shelters cannot
process the information. In the area where I take refuge, you have to
make appointments first "by phone" and then drive forty minutes away to
another town to meet with a county Red Cross representative (by
appointment only). Again, the number is always busy. And why should
anyone to have to drive a substantial distance? Many people don't even
have cars. Each and every shelter in each and every small town should
have the ability to process the needed information. If there are not
enough volunteers to staff this aspect of service, then HIRE/TRAIN SOME
OF THE STORM VICTIMS!!! This is only common sense.
My intention, with this letter, is to contribute to a constructive
"learning curve" on how our response charities and organizations can
better serve people the next time around. Otherwise, I for one would
not encourage Americans to give in the future to the Red Cross. It may
have worked for 9/11 because of the close area surrounding ground zero,
but Katrina-Rita disaster is widespread, and the methods of service
must be fluid and disaster specific. Each disaster will have varied
circumstances and SMART logistical flexibility is paramount.
PLEASE BRING THE ABOVE INFORMATION TO THE ATTENTION OF THE PRESS. IT
IS NOT TOO LATE TO FIX THE PROBLEM. I WOULD CALL THE RED CROSS
DIRECTLY, BUT .....(you now know the story). I WOULD HOPE THIS
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CAN SOMEHOW MAKE THE NATIONAL EVENING NEWS OR
TOMORROW MORNING'S PAPERS.
Thanks for your efforts to promote such constructive change.