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Arrest Outside Des Moines Shelter Could Be Traced To America’s Homeless Crisis

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- What could be seen as an isolated incident sparked from an argument is much deeper within Des Moines' homeless community.  "There's some behavior issues.  A lot of substance abuse that contributes to some of the conflicts we see," said Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek.  An afternoon conflict at 1400 Mulberry that police say caused 23-year-old Manuel Martinez to assault and injure a man with a crow-bar.  Parizek said the victim had significant injuries, "He had a couple minor abrasions across his abdomen but he also had a broken arm as he was falling to the ground."

Police say both Martinez and the victim are residents at Central Iowa Shelter and Services, which is nearby where the assault occurred.  "It's not necessarily a violent place to be but they like to police themselves and that's not really in line with how we like things to police," Parizek said.

Opened in 2012 CISS has provided new life to many without shelter but it can't keep up, causing frustration for residents and the community.  We've got a brand new shelter here, bigger than any  we've had here before and those poor folks are at capacity almost all the time."

It's led to homeless people lining the streets, living out of cars and pitching tents near the shelter.  Parizek said, "There's some quality of life issues that affect the people that live downtown and come to work and socialize."  While businesses nearby may gripe, there's not much police can do on CISS property.  "Does the property owner care? Are they really bothering anybody and are we creating a different set of problems if we turn those people's camps upside down and tell them to move?"

Officers know the growing numbers of homelessness within the area will only cause more frustration to boil over despite Thursday afternoon's arrest.  Parizek said, "It's like putting a band aid on an axe wound.  We've got big problems with small solutions or temporary solutions."

CISS does pay for an off-duty officer almost daily for several hours.  Martinez was charged with assault causing bodily injury, obstruction of emergency communications and unlawful possession of prescription drugs.