Shelter ShelvesIowa’s largest city saw a 20% rise in requests for emergency food assistance last year, while homeless shelters were full to overflowing.

Des Moines is one of 22 cities surveyed in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Report on Hunger and Homelessness.

Ehren Stover-Wright, research director for the Des Moines-based Institute for Community Alliances, says more people are growing dependent on food pantries and shelters.

Stover-Wright says, “For a lot of people, what has traditionally been an emergency response is starting to become more of a daily coping mechanism.”

The study says low wages and a lack of affordable housing are the root causes for a sharp increase in requests for food aid and the overcrowding at shelters.

The numbers of homeless people will likely remain high or rise this year, Stover-Wright says, because people can’t find affordable places to live.

“There’s just this imbalance between the available housing and the range of salaries we’re paying, especially at the lower end,” he says, “so at any given time, somebody has to be homeless in Des Moines.”

Iowa’s capitol city was included in the report because Mayor Frank Cownie sits on a task force studying the causes of hunger and homelessness across the country.

Thanks to Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio