Local homeless claim harassment with petition filed today


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One Iowa City homeless man is claiming he, his family, and others living without permanent shelter have been the subject of harassment and have been denied service at a number of Iowa City and Downtown District businesses. They hope a Friday morning petition with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission will help bring light and resulting action to their problem.

Al Raheem Muhaymin said the decision to take action came after his wife allegedly witnessed a Den employee beat up a homeless person who was attempting to shoplift at the store nearly three weeks ago.

He said a trip solely for the purpose of buying four 13-ounce sodas has turned into an on-going struggle for acceptance in the greater Iowa City community.

“Ever since then, they’ve had a vendetta against the homeless,” he said about the downtown retailer.

After moving to Iowa City from Springfield, Ill., in December 2012, Muhaymin said he regularly works 20- to 25-hour work weeks for Clark’s Home Improvement, earning between $190 and $220 each week. But Iowa City’s high-cost rental market, he said, has priced him out of having the opportunity for an affordable home.

Each night, he and his wife sleep at will behind the Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque St., in an alley.
In the petition, obtained by The Daily Iowan from Muhaymin on Thursday afternoon, he cites discrimination because of his African American and Saudi ethnic background as well as his national origin.

“And all they’re doing is creating more problems by pushing us out of downtown and over by the Salvation Army,” he said.  “But we’re still going to gravitate downtown; this is all we have, a bench.”

Iowa City City Councilor Terry Dickens, who co-owns Herteen and Stocker Jewelers, 101 S. Dubuque St., told the DI in a March 2013 interview that the transient population that regularly congregates near his downtown store can deter business and from people coming downtown.

Calls made to Dickens Thursday evening seeking comment could not be returned.

For City Clerk Mariann Karr, whose department, along with the City Attorney’s and City Manager’s Offices, had yet to hear about the petition as of Thursday afternoon, said the homeless population and related concerns should be left up to the discretion of local law-enforcement agencies.

“I think it would be a question for the police if they have received any complaints,” she said.

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