Oct 11, 2021 - News
Des Moines resettlement group struggles to find homes for refugees
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Des Moines' housing shortage is hindering nonprofits from finding homes for refugees, including families who evacuated from Afghanistan, according to a local resettlement nonprofit.

Why it matters: Permanent housing gives stability, including an address for official documents.

  • It helps families know what school district to enroll in, and allows them to show proof of residence in job applications or forms for social services, like food stamps.

State of play: Home inventory is still tight and it's hard to find affordable places large enough for families on short notice, according to USCRI.

  • We're still at only 50% of the typical housing inventory in the Des Moines metro, according to the Des Moines Area Association of Realtors.
  • And refugee resettlement is increasing in Des Moines under the Biden administration.

By the numbers: Last fiscal year, during the pandemic, USCRI resettled only 123 people. But now, USCRI alone is helping resettle at least 340 refugees — many of which come from Burma, Sudan, Syria and Eritrea — in Des Moines between now and October.

  • Add on top a new wave of Afghan refugees. Around 700 are expected statewide between now and March, but numbers may change.

What's next: For the general public, the best way to help is via cash donations. They're at $34K of their $50K annual goal.

  • You can donate on USCRI's website or attend their fundraiser at Foundry Distilling Co. on Thursday. Tickets are $25.
  • If you're a landlord or Airbnb property owner, reach out to USCRI via [email protected]. Host families aren't needed at this time.

The bottom line: "They're just people that unfortunately, their home countries are unsafe for them," Kerri True-Funk, president of USCRI in Des Moines, said. "These are coming here to be Iowans, just like you."

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