Well over a month has passed since intense rainfall and flooding in August left thousands homeless in Louisiana. Those with nowhere viable to stay headed to Red Cross shelters—and the agency certainly could have done better.
At least that’s what a ProPublica investigation published yesterday (October 3) suggests. “They failed for 12 days,” James Gilmore, the director of the state’s Children’s Cabinet, wrote in an email on Aug. 26. The story continued:
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.
At the largest Red Cross shelter, the Baton Rouge River Center, which Colorlines has written about, volunteers had to pay for baby formula out of pocket—even though Red Cross received a truckload of it as a donation that could be distributed to the majority-Black population being housed there, according to ProPublica. The agency left the formula “unused for days.”
While the article did not examine the alleged militarization of this particular shelter, which shut down on September 15, the ProPublica report does emphasize the tension between Red Cross and the state government who rely on the agency to rush in when disaster strikes. Flooding in March resulted in similar complaints about the Red Cross by Lousiana officials, according to the investigation.
Read the complete ProPublica investigation here.