"I am not a criminal. My nonprofit is made up of GOOD SAMARITANS. It is bad enough and horrible enough to criminalize the poor. Now to call Good Samaritans criminals?" - Joan Cheever
Joan Cheever, who operates a mobile food truck known as Chow Train, was fined $2,000 by police for her charitable operation. Chow Train offers restaurant-grade food to the homeless in the area and has been in operation for 10 years.
Cheever was not technically fined for operating her food truck - instead - she was cited for the use of vehicles other than her food truck to transport and serve some of the food, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Outraged by what she perceived as an egregious fine, Cheever challenged police with a Facebook post.
Cheever is due on court on June 23 but it fighting the fine by asserting she has the right to serve the homeless under the 1999 Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Read the entire Facebook post below:
"Addendum to the TPR interview: We are not hurting the homeless. We are providing a hot meal. We are not enabling them. I believe until SAT can FIGURE it out and embrace HOUSING FIRST, not FOURTH (as Mr. Marbut will say), we will continue to serve a hot meal to not only the homeless but those who have a home but no food. The working poor. We also serve FREE meals to children and the elderly. I am not a criminal and calling me one (SAPD) doesn't help. A few months ago, Chief McManus wanted to make it a crime to give food or money to panhandlers. This community reacted and I ask them to react again. McManus' proposal didn't even make it out of committee it was sooooooo LUDICROUS. The Chow Train doesn't give money, We give FOOD. Our motto is: Fighting Hunger. One Plate At A Time. We are Johnny on the spot to newly homeless in disasters (Joplin tornado, Moore, OK tornado, Bastrop fires, Colorado fires, South Austin flood and Hurricane Sandy etc. Are we subject to Class C Misdemeanors and $2,000 fines then? No. We are thanked to coming quickly and serving SURVIVORS, law enforcement and first responders/volunteers. HFH sends people to us. Read that again. They send people to US-- The Chow Train, to Catholic Worker House and to Under The Bridge. They provide the bus passes b.c they understand this is a BIG issue and they need feeding partners. I have NO QUARREL with HFH. I am happy to serve the people that they CANNOT serve because they are unable to serve them. We are not in competition. Unlike HFH, The Chow Train has not received ONE NICKEL from either the federal, state or city government. NOT ONE DIME. Our food comes out of a LICENSED (it is NOT unlicensed) commercial kitchen on wheels. It is placed in Health Department Catering equipment. It is way above the 165 temp.
I ask you: What is the difference between food delivery services by restaurants and Dominoes pizza, Jimmy Johns and The CHOW TRAIN. Not one gosh darn thing except $$$. When I talked to the health department and said WE--THE CHOW TRAIN-- are the caterers of the poor, they said, that's ridiculous. They don't have a caterer. When I said, what is the difference betw me bringing food into the park vs. the age old tradition of families camping out and cooking AND serving food on Easter Sunday, they told me -- those people are their friends and family. I said the peeps are MY FRIENDS and I see them on a more regular basis than my own family. I asked where in the HEALTH CODE does it define friends and family. The health dept. said don't be ridiculous Ms. Cheever. They are NOT your friends and they are NOT your family. And they hung up on me. Let me be very clear: I AM THE CATERER to the homeless AND working poor of this city. I am not a criminal. My nonprofit is made up of GOOD SAMARITANS. It is bad enough and horrible enough to criminalize the poor. Now to call Good Samaritans criminals? SAN ANTONIO is NOT a city of hate. We are of compassion and WE TAKE CARE OF OUR COMMUNITY. That is who we are. And this ordinance for which I was ticketed and may be arrested applies to EVERY person in this city who pulls over on Broadway or anywhere else and gives their doggie bag from Riverwalk restaurant or fast food to a homeless or hungry (apartment but no food) is ALSO A CRIMINAL UNDER THIS stupid puny/punky ILLEGAL ittle ordinance that is TRUMPED BY two federal laws and a state law. I should have written THAT officer a ticket for violating mine and yours TWO FEDERAL laws and a state one. I am offended and every person in SAT also should be. Go ahead. Give me another citation and another and another. We will NOT be stopped. I am NOT enabling people on the street. I am just trying to give them a SAFE, hot AND CATERED meal until they can get their life together. I will not turn a blind's eye to hunger. WILL NOT. So SAT do what you think you must. But I should be writing YOU ALL A CITATION for violating the 1st amendment, the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Texas Religious FREEDOM act that protects OUR right to share food. SHAME on you City of San Antonio. . "What you do to the least of my brothers, you to undo Me." Shame shame shame. Good night. Joan"
Image credit: Facebook: The Chow Train