Texans seem unhappy with the Red Cross

After Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005, there was deep suspicion and unhappiness with the way the Red Cross conducted itself during relief operations.  At the time, I wrote, among other things:

8. Relief organizations have their own bureaucratic requirements that may conflict with your needs. A good example is the Red Cross. In many cases across three states, I’ve had reports that locals who needed assistance were told that they had to register at a particular Red Cross shelter or facility. The help would not come to them – they had to go to it. If they wished to stay on their own property, they were sometimes denied assistance, and told that if they wanted help, they had to move into the shelter to get it. Also, assistance was often provided only to those who came in person. If you left your family at home and went to get food aid, you might be denied aid for your whole family, because there was no evidence that they existed. Only the number that could be physically counted by relief workers (who would not come to you, but insisted you come to them) would be provided with food. Needless to say, this caused much anger and resentment … I’m more and more convinced that in the event of a disaster, I must rely on myself and a few friends, and never count on Government or relief organizations for the help I’ll need.

That’s just one example of an overly bureaucratic, top-heavy, seemingly uncaring approach by the Red Cross to disaster relief after Katrina.  Sadly, it appears that something similar has been experienced in Houston during the past few weeks, after Hurricane Harvey passed through.  The Pink Armadillo, which describes itself as “a community-centric magazine devoted to Northwest Houston“, reports:

Residents across Texas are expressing their outrage at The Red Cross after Hurricane Harvey victims and relief volunteers witnessed mismanagement and apathy from Red Cross workers … At Wednesday morning’s Houston City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Martin, who represents flood-ravaged Kingwood, had a very clear message to prospective donors of The Red Cross.

“I beg you not to send them a penny,” he said. “They are the most inept unorganized organization I’ve ever experienced. Don’t waste your money. Give it to another cause.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was also uncomplimentary of the organization. Judge Emmett admitted that he asked a local nonprofit to manage the shelter at NRG Park, because he didn’t trust The Red Cross to do a good job.

. . .

And government officials are far from the only ones voicing their disapproval. We’ve seen story after story of Red Cross mismanagement expressed by both evacuees and volunteers across Texas. In fact, we’ve been hard pressed to find a positive story. When we do find one, we will update this article.

Here are a few of the latest social media posts about The Red Cross in Texas:

. . .

“We Are Not A Shelter. Don’t Touch That Cot”
Last night I experienced Red Cross first hand. I decided to go and volunteer at the Burton where Red Cross was in charge … I was listening to what that employee was saying to them when they asked for stuff. One lady who came in with nothing was asking her where she could find toothpaste and the Red Cross employee looked at her and said, “Oh, I don’t think we have any of that. We are not a shelter.”

Luckily, some good volunteers forced their way in with all kinds of donations, so I pointed the lady in that direction.

. . .

Another thing was that these Red Cross employees (there were 7 of them at the Burton mind you) were loading up these people on buses and making them sit there for sometimes 2-3 hours at a time before sending them off. Someone asked a Red Cross employee if they were making sure the evacuees on the bus needed water or needed to get off to use the restroom because these people had been sitting on the bus for hours. The Red Cross employee responded with, “It is not my job to do that. My job is to stand here and monitor who is getting on the bus.”

I am just completely mind-blown by how awful this organization is. If people wouldn’t have forced their way in last night with donations those people would have sat in their soaking wet clothes.

. . .

No Infants or Elderly Allowed
So, today I went to go volunteer at the Toyota center downtown Houston because I heard they needed help … After my duties were done I went to see where the carts were for people to sleep on [because] it was entirely too quiet … 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, and singles (well he didn’t say a reason for them). At that very moment I felt irate. I told him how unacceptable it was to have so much room but to not accept people because they’re lazy. Then I said, “Okay, so what about other families that none of that applies to, at the shelter down the street, that are in the hallways and on the floors, can they come over here?” He says, “Well no, they have to be selected.” I said, “Well, how do they get selected?”

Now, if y’all know me, y’all know I started to feel myself getting real [indignant]. CRAZY thing is, he didn’t have an answer. At that very moment, I had to walk off before I went completely to the left on them. The police officers had no clue that was going on until I told them, and even they were upset [along] with me. They started making calls so hopefully they handled it, but I left and took my service where it was needed. I do not support the Red Cross and will never ever deal with them again.

Refusing Formula To Babies, Food To Hungry Kids
The view I have from my wheelchair is the American Red Cross should be ashamed of what’s going on with our displaced neighbors sheltered in Houston at GRB [George R. Brown] Convention Center … Red Cross, please help me understand why there are moms in the shelter who need blankets. There are plenty of blankets with your logo on them up on the third floor. The people that need them are on the first floor. There is no logistics of an inventory system, a way to locate supplies, a way to get them down to the first floor or a way to distribute them.

Someone desperately needs a wheelchair but is told there aren’t any. Oh really? There are plenty on the third floor. I have babies with no formula. Why? Because no one at the Red Cross thought to order the kind of formula that WIC requires them to be on. I go and start sounding the alarm that we need ONE certain kind of formula for 90% of these babies. No one wants to listen to me. We have some of the correct kind 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.

. . .

I know of a family that had just registered into the shelter with children go to the food distribution area. They asked a regular volunteer if they could have something to eat because they hadn’t eaten for over 24 hrs. The regular vol went to grab them food off of a table in full view of these kids. A Red Cross representative said, “No, you can’t give them anything. It’s not meal time”. The reg Volunteer couldn’t believe his ears. He had to turn away hungry kids. Unbelievable.

There’s more at the link.

I’m sorry to say that those reports, and the many others at that link, tally precisely with what I and many others experienced in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.  It seems as if the administration that runs the Red Cross insists on dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in the most bureaucratic, unfeeling way possible.  The late Dr. Jerry Pournelle coined his “Iron Law of Bureaucracy“, which appears to describe the Red Cross very accurately.  Bold print is my emphasis.

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

  • First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
  • Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Sure sounds like the Red Cross I’ve come to know in the United States!

To be fair, the Pink Armadillo did publish an extended reply from a Red Cross representative to the complaints made in its first article.  However, I found his excuses and explanations unconvincing.  If this were the only occurrence of such problems, he’d be on much stronger ground:  but Harvey is only the most recent example of problems that appear to have plagued the US Red Cross for years, if not decades.  Consider, for example, the following report:

In 2012, two massive storms pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks.

Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job.

They were wrong.

The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Sandy and Isaac, leaving behind a trail of unmet needs and acrimony, according to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR. The charity’s shortcomings were detailed in confidential reports and internal emails, as well as accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists.

What’s more, Red Cross officials at national headquarters in Washington, D.C. compounded the charity’s inability to provide relief by “diverting assets for public relations purposes,” as one internal report puts it. Distribution of relief supplies, the report said, was “politically driven.”

Again, more at the link.

I’m afraid I simply don’t trust the US Red Cross to be anything but a bureaucracy and an administrative-centric organization when it comes to disaster relief.  I won’t send any money their way.  Instead, my relief dollars will go to the Salvation Army, an organization I know from personal experience uses almost every penny for aid, treats people with compassion and care, and whose workers have a truly service-oriented mentality.  Of course, it’s a faith-based organization, but they don’t force their faith down people’s throats, or beat them over the head with a Bible.  They help first, and show by example what they believe.  If others then want to ask for more information, they’re happy to provide it.

Your mileage may vary, of course.  I urge all my readers to find an organization that is providing efficient, effective disaster relief, and whose mission is in accordance with their own beliefs, and donate accordingly.



  1. Just listened to a regional talk show here in Indiana last week where they were discussing this. Apparently the Red Cross rivals the Clinton foundation for waste of donations… errr, well, use of donations. I'm sure the Director, making 600k doesn't think it's wasted… Samaritans purse puts a lot more of the donated money towards actually helping victims was the jist of the discussion.

  2. I once saw the "red cross" pull up in a truck after a tornado in Kentucky. They had a film crew. They gathered a group around the truck. Handed out smelly blankets and bags filled with old rags that were clearly marked "food aid". Filmed it. Them took the blankets and bags, put them back in the truck, and drove away never to be seen again. The "red cross" is a scam.—Ray

  3. Yep. But in other news, the Red Cross IS helping illegal aliens apply for federal relief funds and instructing them how to tap into both charities and government coffers meant to help US citizens in need, all while also instructing them not to answer questions about their citizenship or immigration status.

  4. I have heard many stories of Red Cross "aid" going back decades as well. One guy I knew talked about how the Red Cross sent them an invoice for coffee and donuts that they had handed out at center.

    I can't think of a single thing they have helped with where they have received glowing praise. Not a one.

  5. The Red Cross is pretty awful. Salvation Army, however, is amazing! You might also consider UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and Samaritan's Purse. Overseas I'd also suggest Doctors Without Borders (MSF). All three do great work, the vast bulk of donations (over 90%) gets to where it's going rather than being used for administration. Run away screaming from the red cross, and especially the ICRC, and UNICEF. My tupence worth.

  6. Not a single vet I know has a good word to say about the ARC. And the list of stories, BAD stories, about them they have is nigh endless. The one Dad tells the most often is about the time his unit was tasked with helping out in the aftermath of a particularly bad tornado. The Red Cross pulled up in their truck and started SELLING coffee to the victims. Dad's CO saw that, threw a fit, and ordered the mess section to setup right next to the ARC and start giving coffee and ham sandwiches away to the victims. "We're here to help these people out, not rip them off after they've already lost everything but the shirt on their back!"

  7. My WWII veteran dad HATED the Red Cross.

    I read another story once about a WWII veteran. On his wedding day, he told his wife there were only 2 unforgivable acts she could do. Infidelity, and donating to the Red Cross.

  8. I won't donate to the ARC. It's topheavy, corrupt, and insensitive most of the time. Far too much of its cash is wasted. When Milady and I want to help someone out, we do it locally and directly, by giving canned food or decent clothing for flood or fire victims, for example.

    However . . . when Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola in 2004 and virtually wrecked the place, as soon as the streets were cleared of fallen trees and blown-off roofs and other debris, the Red Cross had wagons out delivering hot food and bottled water every day for about a week or more.

    Came in handy even tho I had a generator and plenty of food.

    Hey, even a busted clock is right twice a day.

  9. I worked Katrina and saw first hand the ineptness of the Red Cross. I have made a point to make sure none of my relatives ever send any donations their way.

  10. Several years ago, when a large tornado took out a number of towns near the Lincoln, NE area, the Church of Christ Disaster Relief group sent a semi loaded with first-need supplies.
    The Red Cross sent a representative.
    When she saw the semi approaching the area, she directed the National Guard unit to not let the truck in.
    We had to move all the supplies into cars, vans, pickups, what-have-you, to get them to the people who needed them via back roads.

  11. Back in 1974, Christmas Eve in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The city was virtually destroyed by cyclone Tracy, my house was torn to pieces, but we, my Wife and two very young toddlers, survived, but we lost everything. She and our boys were evacuated by an RAAF C130 Hercules to Sydney, via Brisbane eventually, on the 27th December, her birthday.All she had was a plastic bag with two bananas, one small hand towel, our boys had shorts and light cotton singlets, nothing else. On arrival at Brisbane, halfway to Sydney, the Herk was met by the 'Sallies', they took the kids away, and she was REALLY taken of, treated with incredible care and compassion, nothing was the least bit of trouble. The boys came back, bathed, brand new clothes on, cool drinks and sandwiches for them in a carry bag. She was met at Sydney airport, and taken by taxi, free of charge, 37kms to her sister's place, I had to stay behind as I was required to work in the communications centre. I still remind my boys of how well they were treated back by the Sallies then, and NEVER to forget it!.

  12. I was born in 1944. My father was away in the army. My mother told me she had asked the Red Cross for help. She was asked to turn over a life insurance policy. Many of the people in the neighborhood told similar stories of dealing with the Red Cross. My father experienced the Red Cross overseas. He hated them and always helped the salvation Army. After I got out of the Air Force (Vietnam Era), during my senior year in college when my wife was pregnant, I asked the Red Cross for some help. They asked if I had an insurance policy. they said I would have to turn the policy over to them to get help.

  13. A guy who worked for me told me of his experience with the Red Cross after Camille wiped out the Gulf when he was a kid. He hated the Red Cross. Then there was Katrina and the Red Cross was everything he said it was and worse.

    It's a vanity charity set up for the local elites. Salvation Army or others are the ones to donate to.

  14. But, But elizabeth dole assured us that it was reasonable to pay the head of the ARC huge corporate salery to attract the best possible leadership.

  15. Yup, the abuses of the Red Cross have been going on since at least WWII. My father disliked them intensely them. Vietnam War my brother's feeling for them weren't any pleasanter.

    Salvation Army is an infinity better choose. Another really good one is the Mennonite Disaster Service, I've seen them in action after tornadoes here in Kansas.

  16. Many years ago, before I went into the military, I donated generously to the United Fund at my workplace. At that time, most of which money went to the Red Cross. Later, when I was in the Army and needed their help, they grudgingly LENT me the cash. Then, to make sure they got the money back, they made me sign a paper that had the repayment amounts automatically deducted from my meager paycheck, to the degree that at one point I was netting around 25 bucks a month!

    That was fifty years ago this year. I can see that not much has changed since then.

    The Salvation Army is the only national charity I have given to after that experience.

  17. I agree with the comments above, with one caveat:

    I don't have a problem with the ARC not giving you food for people who aren't present. This prevents people from hoarding food and then reselling it when there is none left.

  18. I've been reading a lot of stories about the Red Cross on the net for years and they are all the same.
    Here in England my Gran use to tell me stories about how The Salvation Army helped her brother in WW2. He couldn't get in the army for medical reasons (you had to be bad not to get into anything in England in 1940) so he "helped" the fire service at that time they needed all the help they could get. I would guess from what she said he was a fire watcher and made the tea (1940 England that was a very important job).
    In the end he ended up homeless and dying (when I said bad health I meant very bad) and the Salvation Army did everything to help him and make him comfortable. In 1940 London there was not a lot of help to go around but the Salvation Army did everything they could. To her dying day she would not hear anything bad about the Salvation Army. I've heard stories like this all my life, odd I've never heard anything about the Red Cross.

  19. To somewhat paraphrase Dr. Pournelles' point, in most bureaucratic organizations you will encounter two types of people.
    The majority will take great pains to explain to you why the rules make it impossible to give you what you need.
    A very precious few will listen to your request then do everything in their power to tweak the system to cough up whatever it is that meets your requirements.
    During 25 years of government service I always tried to be of the second sort.

  20. "When she saw the semi approaching the area, she directed the National Guard unit to not let the truck in."

    I don't doubt this story, but I feel like I have to ask: why would the National Guard unit have paid any attention at all to this woman? What enforcement authority did she have?

  21. every damn store I go into "do you want to donate $1 to the red cross for hurricane relief?"

    I have to hold back from lighting into the guy. I realize it's not the cashier, and telling him off won't change anything.

  22. My father (WW II, Korea) was comparatively lucky. All the Red Cross did TO him was deny him and his men food, coffee, and cigarettes–those things were only given to officers. They didn't do anything FOR him. They won't get a penny from me unless the organization issues an official apology for what it did to those men.

  23. Odd I've just read two site about the red cross [http://knuckledraggin.com/2017/09/texans-not-happy-with-the-red-cross/#comments] [https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/texans-seem-unhappy-with-red-cross.html] and not one comment about the red croos doing anything good or The Salvation Army doing anything but good.

  24. Having volunteered and instructed classes with Red Cross for 10 years, you have to be clear on how they operate.

    You have to remember something: there are two types of people at the Red Cross.
    The volunteers, and the employees.

    The volunteers fall into two types, and only two:
    1) those who are dedicated, motivated, hard-charging folks who want to help their friends and neighbors, and are more than competent to do so;
    2) and those who want to hold clipboards, and are incompetent to do much of anything.

    The employees fall into the same two types.

    With the volunteers, the ration of dedicated competent volunteers to incompetents is maybe 20:80.
    With the employees, the ration of competent to incompetent is 1:99.
    If that.

    Bear in mind that the people Red Cross attracts are those who couldn't get "real" jobs at companies who demand performance. So invariably, what the Red Cross gets, hires, promotes, and staffs, are people too screwed up to even get in the front door at the post office or DMV, and not nearly bright enough to get a job greeting people at WalMart.

    At the Salvation Army, they do mostly the same things the Red Cross does in disasters, except they aren't living off the century-past reputation of Clara Barton. They also don't wait until disasters; they feed and shelter people 24/7/365 around the world, so they can't help but be better at it from sheer practice.

    SA is knuckleheaded in its own ways (and they aren't just a few) but generally from sheer lack of imagination or intelligence, rather than sloth or malice. Their people can generally be educated, and will fix deficiencies if you have the patience to point out the problem and speak slowly and simply.

    By contrast, sloth and malice are core values at Red Cross.
    (And FTR, the International version is orders of magnitude worse than the American example.)
    The only way to educate most of the stupid volunteers, and all of the incompetent paid staff, is with a baseball bat upside the head. As long as nobody is looking.

    Best to stay the hell away, because there's damned little they can do right, six days out of seven.

  25. Had the same problem with the ARC two years ago in Louisiana after Baton Rouge and that area flooded after three days of monsoon rains. They tried to tell the Cajun Navy they couldn't help, dumped donations in dumpsters (which were rescued by local churches) because they didn't come from 'official' channels, yada yada. Worthless. But I forgive them, because I should. May their consciences eat at them.

  26. Donate to Samaritan's purse, and Salvation Army. If Operation Blessing is involved, then donate to them as well. Never, never, never to the Red Cross. UMCOR has a few stories surrounding them as well. Not to mention that the denomination is in the throes of attempted convergence by the leftists in their ranks.

  27. To add to the other stories of veterans experiences with ARC, my dad and his shipmates told me of many of their experiences with the ARC all over the world. They admonished me to never contribute a dime to the ARC, and I never have. Neither will my daughter. That is all.

  28. I'm pretty much limiting my disaster relief donations to local efforts, and the one my church sponsors. International Orthodox Christian Charities. Low overhead, high helping. they have vounteers in Houston now helping to rip out sheetrock to prevent black mold. They asked for money for relief and cleaning buckets. They get it.

  29. To September 11, 2017 at 1:10 PM.
    The state governor had directed the National Guard to follow the Red Cross's directions.
    I'm guessing it was because the Red Cross has the connections and pull, along with having all the free publicity of how swell they are.
    However, that is just a guess, as I was not in the meetings where the decision was made.

  30. Friend of mine in Austin reports that the LDS Churches in their area are planning on sending 10,000 clean-up volunteers every weekend for the next while. They hit their 10,000 goal last Saturday and exceeded it a bit on Sunday.

    I'd imagine it's the same from the DFW area.

  31. One more report on ARC: My father-in-law had nothing good to say about them. He was part of the forces relieving Bastogne. ARC was charging troops coming off the front line for the coffee and doughnuts they were offering; the Salvation Army facilities were providing theirs for gratis. To this day, I refuse to donate to the ARC, preferring the Salvation Army or Direct Relief.


  32. As a Forest Service employee we are called upon to help with all-risk incidents. Several fire fighting crews went to Katrina to help, we were known as the "green pants" People staying shelters soon learned if they wanted anything they had to go to the "green pants" We were working side by side with Red Cross at a shelter in San Antonio. They were an absolute joke who seemed to forget their mission was to help people. We had to sneak diapers and baby formula to mothers staying in the shelter. We had pallets of Nike shoes (donated) that they would not let us hand out because "if one of them gets a pair they will all want a pair". We had to sneak water to people sitting on buses for hrs outside of our shelter. They had a first aid room & they wouldn't even give out ONE cough drop to one of our people who had a cold… a fellow govt. employee! Basically any help we provided to the people of the shelter had to be done behind Red Cross back or they would chastise us. I was embarrassed to work with them, but proud that we were able to provide people with the goods they needed.
    When they finally left we were tasked with closing that particular shelter. We were told to shrink wrap all the donations, food, clothes, etc on pallets and they'd be sending the pallets to another shelter. They gave us the keys to several rooms that had been locked while we were there (3 weeks) and to our surprise there were two rooms piled high with donations. One was waist deep in stuffed animals & the other room was packed full of board games, books, toy cars, Barbie dolls, coloring books etc etc. This whole time we had been playing games like Duck, Duck, Goose with the kids because they had no toys or games. Had we known we would have handed every last one of those toys, stuffed animals, etc out! After I got home I found out from a fellow firefighter that was working at the other shelter that they never even unwrapped any of the pallets when they arrived at their shelter because they were told not to touch them!
    Every fire fighting crew that went down there has the same stories, this was not strictly our shelter.
    For all Red Cross' "hard work" they did they were rewarded with free tickets to a New Orleans/Buffalo Bills NFL game that was being held in San Antonio. Sheesh.
    Those were only a few stories, I didn't even touch on the corruption that was going on with their employees.
    Since that assignment I have told everyone I know to NEVER donate to Red Cross, as others have stated the Salvation Army is a much better option.

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