News The Power of Giving

Arizona Woman Suing To Feed the Hungry

An Arizona woman is suing her hometown over being arrested for giving food to the local homeless.

Norma Thornton, 78, is a resident of Bullhead City, Arizona, the largest city in Movahe County, on the Colorado River. With a population of over 41,000 people, the median income is only $37,000 and more than 14% of families and 20% of the total population earn below the poverty line.

Thornton, who once owned a restaurant with her late husband and has experienced homelessness, along with her five children, wanted to help the local unhoused population. She was arrested by Bullhead City police for giving homecooked meals to the homeless in a city park near her home, without a permit. She is suing to have the laws changed.

“The idea of people being hungry makes me feel like I’m not having much of an impact. It’s not that much,” said the Arizona woman in a public video. “But at least some individuals have access to enough food to survive.”

According to city officials, the issue is that she did not acquire the proper permits to be in the park.

Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady said, “Individuals are free to serve food to any homeless person at their place of residence, church or private property. Our ordinance applies to public parks only. If an individual or group wishes to serve hot prepared food, simply a city permit and proof of a food handler permit are necessary.”

But according to Thornton’s lawyers, the process for acquiring such a permit is obstructive, and meant to make it difficult to perform such acts of charity. It requires a massive liability insurance policy, a fee, a deposit, 60 days lead-time, and only a single, two-hour permit can be issued for any given park in a thirty day span.

Moreover, anyone wanting to serve homecooked food to anyone except the homeless, so long as it’s fewer than 100 people, could do so in the same park every single day without a permit.

Photo: Shutterstock