Lack of Access to Sidewalks and Public Transportation for Refugees and Immigrants Causing Problems

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  "There's no public transportation," said Barwaqo Aden, Assistant Director of NISAA African Family Services. "There's not anything connecting you to either West Des Moines or Des Moines."

Aden is speaking out on behalf of refugees and immigrants who live at the Deer Ridge Apartments, many of whom live there because it's affordable.

"Affordable housing with no public transportation, with no sidewalks, with no stores next to it," said Aden. "How will those people live?"

Aden says without access to sidewalks or buses, making a living and providing for a family becomes very difficult.

"I know a few people who lost jobs because there's no public transportation," said Aden. "The nearest place that they can even get a gallon of milk is QuikTrip, which there's no access to it because there's no sidewalk."

Amanda Wanke, Chief Engagement and Communications Officer for Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, says DART is aware of the problem.

"We have been discussing and working on gathering information from the residents about where they most need to go," said Wanke. "So that when we design a transit service, a solution, it works and meets their needs, because if you know that area, are they going to West Des Moines? Are they going downtown? Where are they going?  When do they need it? Because we need to come up with a solution that works."

Meg Schneider, Senior VP of Business Resources and Community Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, has been working on enhancing connectabiilty and walkability downtown, and says there are ways people can make their voices heard on these issues.

"We've identified, even in this study opportunity with Connect Downtown, some enhancements that can be made with that, and so while Connect Downtown does just focus on downtown in particular, the city about six months ago started MoveDSM, which is their transportation plan for the entire city," said Schneider. "So residents do have an opportunity with pop-up events in the neighborhood and online to be chiming in and letting the city know which areas are specific concerns, so that we can take a deeper dive and look at those opportunities and really enhance those, and that's really what that master plan will be doing, so it's really exciting."