Harvey evacuees at GRB voice frustration with Red Cross

By Brandon Walker - Reporter

HOUSTON - Hurricane Harvey evacuees living in an emergency shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center are accusing the American Red Cross of mistreatment, claiming the organization is not providing proper meals and other services to them.

The Red Cross oversees the shelter, which was housed at the GRB after Hurricane Harvey left thousands homeless in the Houston area.

"We really came from the disaster," said Crystal Priester, an evacuee.

A crowd of people staying at the shelter joined a community activist in calling for the Red Cross to answer questions about where donations are going.

"We want to ask questions to the Red Cross with the devastation and the disaster that happened to Houston and surrounding areas with Hurricane Harvey, what are you doing with the millions of dollars that you guys have collected from us, from people all around the world," said Shere Dore, homeless advocate and community activist.

Complaints from those being sheltered span from dirty living conditions to meals that are less than favorable.

"They're supposed to give us better food than they were giving us. They gave us slop," said Preister.

"They're saying they're going to give us hot breakfasts and dinners. Most time you don't get those," said Martin Hornback, an evacuee.

Hornback showed KPRC2 pictures of what he says was served for breakfast Wednesday.

"That's the crackers for breakfast this morning. There's the Jello fruit cup for breakfast this morning," he said.

Others displayed granola bars that they said they were given.

At a press conference Wednesday, Dore held up a picture of what she said was a meal served to evacuees.

"Why are they eating stuff that a 5-year-old would probably put together?" Dore asked.

"In Houston, this is our city. If you don't do your job well, then you need to give us the money, local activists and groups that are actually helping people around here and you need to get out of our city," Dore continued.

The Red Cross told KPRC2 the allegations are merely rumors.

A spokesperson sent an email, outlining what the Red Cross said it has done since Hurricane Harvey. According to the email, all donations, be they monetary or otherwise, are being used locally to help storm victims.

"Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community ... to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible," the statement read.

Here's a transcript of the email, in its entirety:

Unfortunately, these statements appear to stem from misinformation found repeatedly on social media. Here is some information of what the American Red Cross is doing to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, thousands of people remain in emergency shelters, while many more are cleaning up their flooded homes. The American Red Cross is there, providing food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort to people affected by the devastating storm.

Thanks to our generous donors, the Red Cross is providing financial assistance to Texas households that were severely impacted by Harvey and need help taking care of emergency needs. Right now, we are in the initial phase of this effort and are experiencing an exceedingly high demand. We know this is frustrating and ask that people please be patient.

  • On September 11, we provided $45 million in financial assistance to more than 100,000 qualified households who needed immediate help.
  • The Red Cross is prepared to provide financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of households
  • This financial assistance is in addition to the other emergency relief efforts the Red Cross is providing in Texas, which includes sheltering, food and other critical immediate support; we have been on the ground in Texas since before Harvey made landfall, and will be to get those affected back on their feet
  • The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people do not need to be American citizens to receive our assistance
  • The Red Cross continues to provide shelter, food, comfort and emergency support. And our work is just beginning – we will use generous donations to help people recover and get back on their feet in the challenging weeks and months ahead
  • The Red Cross is providing shelter and comfort, food and relief supplies, health services, emotional support and spiritual care, along with financial assistance to the hardest-hit areas across Texas and Louisiana
  • Red Cross response vehicles and volunteers are out across neighborhoods to distribute food and relief supplies such as diapers, bug spray, cleaning supplies, coolers, and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items
  • The Red Cross honors donor intent, and all donations earmarked for Hurricane Harvey will be used for our work to support this disaster. After the emergency relief phase of our work is complete, we will use any remaining donations for Hurricane Harvey to meet the longer-term needs of the affected communities
  • 91 cents of every dollar we receive for Hurricane Harvey will be spent to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey

Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community – government agencies, other non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, area businesses and others – to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible.

  • This is a time for communities to come together and support one another
  • The Red Cross is working with dozens of disaster partners to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of the partners we are coordinating with include Americorps NCCC, Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, Save the Children, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Islamic Relief USA.

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