Mar 15, 2024 - News

Polk County to open immigrant and refugee center

A photo of a building.

The rounded roof side of this complex was a former Katz Drug Store and will open as an immigrant welcome center later this year. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

An immigrant and refugee welcome center will open this year in a Polk County-owned complex previously used for human services.

Why it matters: Our metro's foreign-born population is growing.

  • The center will help families navigate barriers such as language, transportation and child care.

Catch up fast: Two connected buildings at 1900 and 1914 Carpenter Ave. will open as the "Polk County Life Service Center" after a $5 million renovation is completed this fall.

  • A walk-in mental health clinic, a sobering center and Broadlawns Medical Center's Crisis Observation Center will operate there.
  • The city of DSM and the county will share the Life Service Center's annual estimated $1.2 million operating budget.

Driving the news: The east side of the campus will be called Global Neighbors and used as a centralized immigrant and refugee services site, Sarah Boese, deputy county administrator, tells Axios.

  • Employers, service agencies, philanthropic groups and public institutions will be able to use the center to offer services to immigrant communities.

Flashback: Metro leaders have considered opening an immigrant welcome center for years, citing both social and economic benefits of having a dedicated location.

By the numbers: Polk's foreign-born population increased 15% between 2017 and 2022, according to estimates published by the Iowa Data Center.

  • The latest estimate accounted for roughly 48,000 people.

😽 Fun fact: The welcome center space was a Katz Drug Store in the 1950s and had a huge sign on its roof that included a cat with neon whiskers.

An illustration of Polk County's sobering center.
Polk County's sobering center will be a place for law enforcement to take people for help rather than to an emergency room or jail. Rendering: Courtesy of Polk County

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more