Warning Residents of Lead Dangers
Door-to-door workers allied with Hunger Task Force teach Amani residents about possible problems.
The pair speak with residents about the dangers of lead and how to prevent poisoning. Their goal is to knock on every door in their neighborhood — about 5,200 homes.
Ashley and Harper are canvassers for the Milwaukee Nutrition & Lead Task Force, which was formed by Hunger Task Force (HTF), and is working with the Amani neighborhood’s Dominican Center to provide lead education.
HTF Advocacy Campaign Manager Matt Stienstra said the door-to-door canvassing stood out among the various lead education techniques the group used last summer, such as trainings and distributing information at community events.
“We realized pretty early on that going door-to-door and having these conversations was incredibly beneficial, and so we wanted to be able to do it in a more intentional way this summer,” Stienstra said.
He added that HTF is partnering with the Dominican Center because it is essential to conduct the campaign with culturally competent staff. HTF wanted to work with an organization that was already established and respected in the Amani community.
“The canvassers that work for this project both live right in the area, both within a few blocks of the Dominican Center. These are their neighbors that they are talking to; this is their community. These are problems that they’re facing,” Stienstra said.
Ashley, Harper, Stienstra and Earn & Learn students from Employ Milwaukee began canvassing on June 11 and will end on Sept. 30. With a month behind them, Stienstra said the team members are having more conversations than they had expected.
They originally predicted they would talk to five to six families a day, but they are actually reaching eight to 10 families a day.
“The conversations are taking longer than I thought, but in a really good way,” Stienstra added. “It’s because families have questions and they want to talk about this.”
“(The residents) are just happy that we come by in the neighborhood,” Harper said. “The longer we talk to them, the more they know. I’m happy [about] that.”
At the start of summer, the task force mailed a survey to all Amani residents. The survey poses questions related to lead education such as “Circle four good sources of Vitamin C.” Key nutrients to help prevent absorption of lead are Vitamin C, iron and calcium.
Richard Diaz, the Amani community organizer at the Dominican Center, said though some of the survey’s questions seem simple, people don’t know this kind of general information about lead.
Diaz said the task force plans to send out the same survey at the end of July and again at the end of September to measure how effective the door-to-door technique is.
If a resident mails the survey back, she or he is entered for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card. Canvassers draw two winners a week.
Every morning, the task force members set out from the Dominican Center about 10:30 a.m. At the door, canvassers tell residents about the three main sources of lead in homes: paint, water and soil. They also teach them how to identify the presence of lead, what to do and what not to do.
Ashley said people in Amani generally know not to drink the tap water, but the conversation about tap water often is based on rumors.
Before being hired as a canvasser, Ashley said she vaguely knew about the lead crisis from the ‘90s. Now, she realizes some of the misconceptions she once held. “I remember (the crisis), but it’s like, ‘Oh that’s paint; no one said anything about the water,’” she said.
Canvassers also teach residents what to eat to help protect their bodies from lead. They let them know that an empty stomach increases the rate of lead absorption.
If no one answers the door, they leave an informational flier about water filters as well as a door hanger that points to information online.
Before the project began, the canvassers underwent a weeklong session of classroom training, which emphasized that they should direct families to appropriate resources.
“If people have questions that are medical…none of us are doctors,” Stienstra said. “We’re going to make sure that we point [them] to the nearest WIC (Women, Infants and Children) clinic or make sure we talk to them about how to get in touch with a pediatrician.”
Stienstra said conversations usually take 10 or more minutes. “Our goal is to have high-quality conversations with folks.”
HTF Executive Director Sherrie Tussler said she hopes the task force can learn from the project and replicate it in other neighborhoods.
“If I can just get through one ear, I’m proud of that,” Harper added. “One ear opens one mouth, then it goes to another one, then it goes to another one, then everybody’s aware almost. That’s why we’re out here.”
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
More about the Lead Crisis
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- City Hall: Who Can Get a Free Lead Filter? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 25th, 2019
- Chisholm Confirms Health Department Probe - Edgar Mendez - Apr 24th, 2019
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) & Get The Lead Out Coalition (GTLO) Support Letter To Milwaukee County District Attorney By Milwaukee Alderpersons - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Apr 23rd, 2019
- City Hall: DA Asked To Consider Charging City Officials - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 22nd, 2019
- Report Urges Action on Schools’ Drinking Water - Danielle Kaeding - Apr 12th, 2019
- A House Divided: Comments from State Rep Show the Current Chasm in Wisconsin - Ald. Michael Murphy - Apr 10th, 2019
- A statement from Alderman Terry L. Witkowski following the March 22 special Public Safety and Health Committee meeting - Ald. Terry Witkowski - Mar 22nd, 2019
- City Hall: FLAC, Get the Lead Out Fight City Over Lead Posioning - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2019
- Special meeting devoted to lead in water issues will feature city departments - Ald. Bob Donovan - Mar 20th, 2019
- City Hall: Council Approves Civilian Health Oversight Board - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2019
- Marquette University to host Flint water crisis author Anna Clark - Marquette University - Jan 18th, 2019
- Lead-Free Homes a Priority for Kowalik - Corri Hess - Jan 17th, 2019
- Council approves legislation concerning the Milwaukee Health Department’s lead reporting processes and water filter distribution plans - Ald. Milele Coggs - Jan 15th, 2019
- Forum Examines Lead Poisoning Prevention - Abby Ng - Nov 30th, 2018
- City Hall: City’s Lead Program is Working Again - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 16th, 2018
- League of Women Voters – Nov. 17 Public Program Addressing Lead Issues: A Milwaukee Focus - League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County - Nov 5th, 2018
- Citizens deserve to hear from Bevan Baker in public proceeding - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Oct 22nd, 2018
- Milwaukee’s Young Children Need to Be the Focus - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Sep 24th, 2018
- City Hall: Baker To Testify Before Common Council - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 14th, 2018
- Warning Residents of Lead Dangers - Jenny Whidden - Jul 18th, 2018
- Governor Walker Administration Awards More Than $26 Million for Lead Service Line Replacement in 42 Wisconsin Communities - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 18th, 2018
- Environmental Review of City of Milwaukee Project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jul 9th, 2018
- Environmental review of City of Milwaukee project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jun 26th, 2018
- Common Council approves full lead hazard review for city-owned properties - Ald. Jose Perez - May 8th, 2018
- Legislation mandates lead water lines replacement at child care facilities - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 26th, 2018
- Child Care Centers Still Have Lead Pipes - Edgar Mendez - Apr 23rd, 2018
- Legislation looks to local source for water infrastructure needs - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 4th, 2018
- ‘10thirtysix ’ to re-ring the alarm bell on milwaukee’s lead crisis - Milwaukee PBS - Mar 27th, 2018
- Chief of Staff Comment on FLAC - Patrick Curley - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Evers Demands Action on Wisconsin’s Drinking Water Crisis - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2018
- Op Ed: How City Should Solve Lead in Water - Noelle Chesley, Anne Dressel, John Berges, and Helen Meier - Mar 2nd, 2018
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- City Hall: McManus Lays Out Three Priorities for Health Department - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Leading on Lead Act into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 21st, 2018
- City Hall: Mayor Allows Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2018
- City Hall: Will Mayor Confirm Health Commissioner? - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 14th, 2018
- City Hall: HUD Halts City Lead Treatment Program - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2018
- From Dr. Patricia McManus: Comments clarified - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Feb 9th, 2018
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- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Appoints McManus Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 6th, 2018
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- FLAC Calls on Common Council to Confirm Dr. Patricia McManus as Interim Health Commissioner - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Feb 3rd, 2018
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- Gag Order for Health Department Employees Lifted by Mayor - Ald. Bob Donovan - Feb 1st, 2018
- Resolution Aims to Take Down Milwaukee Health Department’s Restrictive Communication Policy - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Feb 1st, 2018
- Common Council Alerts At-Risk Populations of Lead Risks After City of Milwaukee Health Department Fails to Notify Public - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 31st, 2018
- Key Details Missing from the Mayor’s Account of Lead Testing Crisis - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jan 31st, 2018
- What We Really Need: Answers - Ald. Russell Stamper, II - Jan 31st, 2018
- The Administration has Lost the Common Council’s Confidence in Addressing the Lead Issue - Ald. Jose Perez - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Report Finds Health Dept. Problems - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Could Reject Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Aldermen Ask City Attorney for Legality of Paul Nannis’ position - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 29th, 2018
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- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Responds to Lead Crisis - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 23rd, 2018
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- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Grills Mayor, City Health Staff - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
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- Council set to act on Health Department crisis - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 12th, 2018
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- One Step Closer to Tackling Wisconsin’s Lead Crisis - State Sen. Chris Larson - Oct 31st, 2017
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- National Water Expert Retracts Criticism of City Health Department - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jul 14th, 2017
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