Arizona law enforcement officers arrested a 78-year-old retired restaurant owner who was feeding homeless people in a public park without a permit. Norma Thornton came up with the idea to help her community by offering food to homeless people at Bullhead City Community Park in March 2022. On March 8, 2022, she was arrested for being too generous. She said, “This city has criminalized kindness.”

The ex-restaurant owner was apprehended because she wasn’t allowed to give away her homemade food at the public park without a permit. Thornton is taking Bullhead City to court for making acts of kindness illegal and has requested a federal judge ruled against the ordinance that makes it a crime to feed homeless people in parks. According to her lawsuit, the process of obtaining the required permits is both “extremely burdensome” and a violation of residents’ Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The 2021 ordinance requires residents to pay $1,000,000 in liability insurance as well as a fee and deposit to get the permit that allows them to hand out food to homeless people in the city park. The city is trying to prevent people from assisting homeless citizens of the Arizona city by requesting that a permit be obtained five to sixty days in advance of the incident and only effective for two hours. Moreover, one person can obtain a maximum of one permit every thirty days.

“On top of that, no two permittees may use the same location within 30 days of each other — meaning that, at maximum, the city might allow the charitable sharing of food in one park for two hours, once a month,” the Institute of Justice attorneys said.

Diana Simpson, an attorney, said what was on everyone’s mind – “the city has criminalized kindness” in Arizona.

“People have a fundamental right to feed those in need, and have been doing so for the entirety of human history,” she continued.

Although many people are up in arms about the city’s crackdown on feeding homeless people, officials maintain that private property is still fair game. Those who want to do it at a public park just need to use store-bought food, not homecooked meals.

Thornton has been feeding the homeless and people in need for four years. She moved to Arizona from Alaska, seeking warmer weather but quickly realized that the town was facing a homelessness crisis unseen before by her.

“The thought of people being hungry — I mean I’m not making a big impact,” she stated in a video by the Institute of Justice, “but at least some people have enough food to survive.”

The officer told Thornton, who was being fingerprinted at the police station, that she was “lucky” she wasn’t getting incarcerated for feeding the homeless. However, he did caution her that “if this happens again, I am being told point blank that you will be looking at the jail for the night, at least.”

If found guilty, Thornton would have to serve four months in jail and pay a fine of $1,431 along with two years of probation.

“I’m never going to stop feeding them,” Thornton said. “Never.”

What are your thoughts on this law?