Oct 11, 2021

Axios Des Moines

Welcome back, Monday.

  • Expect some rain and a high in the low 60s.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 836 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Refugees need homes

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 on 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 federal 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 the end of September.

  • 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 $38K 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 info@uscri-desmoines.org. 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, director of USCRI in Des Moines, said. "They are coming here to be Iowans, just like you."

2. Our disasters, mapped
Expand chart
Data: FEMA; Map: Axios Visuals

No county across our state has avoided major weather-related disasters over the past two decades, the map of Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declarations above shows.

  • Iowa's northeast and southeast counties have been hit hardest by severe storms and flooding.

Why it matters: Weather extremes are projected to worsen in coming years with greater potential to disrupt our lives.

  • Planning for that can be painful. A heartbreaking reminder was Des Moines' decision last week to proceed with a flood remediation program that will claim dozens of residents' properties.

View the full map.

3. Food trucks at the skate park

Kody Tamanaha, a professional skateboarder from Hawaii, practicing at the Lauridsen Skatepark. Photo courtesy of Dew Tour

One thing missing from the new Lauridsen Skatepark? Food vendors.

  • But a Polk County proposal could change that.

Why it matters: Food and fun are great teammates. Vendors and more special events could help make the venue pop.

Driving the news: Food trucks would be allowed in a section of the park twice a week under Polk's request for a conditional use permit from Des Moines.

  • Special events could also take place up to twice a month.

State of play: The county-owned park is already a major draw and earned the metro some national spotlight for hosting the only U.S. skateboarding qualifying Olympics event this year.

  • Improvements like art have been added in recent weeks.

What's next: The Des Moines Zoning Board of Adjustment will consider the request at its Oct. 27 meeting.

4. The Ear: I'm gonna' Sukup the sun

I'm gonna tell everyone to lighten up. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 The Hawkeyes big victory against Penn State that sent fans flooding on to the field raises a question: Will they be in the semifinals for a national title? (New York Times)

😷 School mask mandates may continue until a lawsuit challenging a state ban is resolved, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

🥃 Do Not Disturb will be the East Village's newest bar opening at 503 E. Locust St. in November. It's inspired by Japanese listening bars, so expect plenty of vinyl and highballs.

🗳 Former President Trump repeated false claims that voter fraud stole the election from him in 2020 during a rally in Des Moines Saturday. (AP)

📍 Another special legislative session is scheduled to begin Oct. 28 to review the second set of Iowa redistricting maps. (WOI-TV)

5. The best thing Linh ate: Tofu fries

Tofu fries from Akebono 515 ($6.50). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Tofu is our versatile friend and at Akebono 515, the downtown Japanese restaurant takes a playful spin on it by transforming the thick soy sticks into "tofu fries."

What Linh liked: It satisfied my perpetual fried food craving without the grease hangover.

  • They're lightly battered, while retaining tofu's light, spongy texture.
  • And just like with french fries, Akebono offers addictive red and white dipping sauces. Dive into the spicy sweet sauce (think sweet & sour) and the tangy Japanese mayo.

Open: 11am-10pm, Tues.-Fri.; 5-10pm Sat.-Sun.; 215 10th St., Suite 120, Des Moines

6. 🇨🇦 1 chuckle to go: Cooked Iowa goose

Don't you dare call me a Canadian. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Yes, we called them "Canadian geese'' in a recent newsletter and several of you cooked our goose for it.

  • Canadian geese are from Canada. A Canada goose is a species of waterfowl.

Iowaism: Maybe this is a part of the local dialect and our Iowan is shining through. What other terms quack of Iowa?

  • Is dinner the noon or the evening meal? When is supper?
  • Soda or pop?

Hit reply.

👨‍🏫 History buffs: Check out the Iowa Historical Society's new online catalog for digital access to millions of pieces of state history.

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