This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
A court case now is developing that offers a warning to those who would do good by offering hungry homeless people food. You could go to jail. At least in Bullhead City, Ariz., where it’s banned.
The Institute for Justice explains there, Norma Thornton, 78, a grandmother, has sued the city after police arrested and prosecuted her, threatening her with jail time, “for feeding homeless people in a park.”
It’s because the city’s laws criminalize feeding the needy in city parks.
The federal case seeks to strike down that city’s demand.
The IJ reported, “For decades, Norma has had a passion for helping people experiencing homelessness. She has lived in various cities throughout that time, and in each new city she has befriended homeless people, cooked them homemade meals, helped with cleaning their laundry, helped connect them with needed services, and much more.”
But when she moved to Bullhead City early this year and tried to provide the same help, she was stopped by a police officer, arrested, and charged.
“I’m not a rulebreaker and I never thought helping people in need in my community would get me into legal trouble,” Norma said in a statement released by the IJ. “I see many of these people as my friends and I want to do everything in my power to help them out.”
The city law, adopted just a year ago, “was designed to push the homeless out of the city park and out of public sight,” the IJ charged.
The law demands someone participating in “non-social gatherings” needs a permit to share prepared food in a public park.
The permits are hard to get and are limited to once a month.
“Because the law applies only to sharing food for a ‘charitable purpose,’ it means that Norma can throw a pizza party in Community Park for 50 of her friends without limitation. But once she offers food for charity, she runs afoul of the ordinance. Each violation of the law is punishable with a fine of up to $1,431, 120 days in jail, and 24 months of probation,” the IJ said.
“The city has criminalized kindness,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson. “People have a right to feed those in need and have been doing so for the entirety of human history. People have a fundamental right to engage in charity, which is protected by the Constitution. There is absolutely no valid reason for Bullhead City to crack down on Norma’s act of compassion.”