For the past 10 years, Cheever has devoted her Tuesday nights to providing hot, restaurant-quality meals to homeless people in the downtown area.
Chef Joan Cheever serves high quality, healthy meals to the homeless people of San Antonio, Texas out of her food truck each week, a project she started in 2005. Though she's been running the "Chow Train" for years, local police recently slammed Cheever with a ticket carrying a fine of up to $2,000 because she brought prepared meals to the feeding location in a pick-up truck, take-out style.
Cheever has been cooking for the hungry and her “street peeps” for many years. The Chow Train is a nonprofit food truck that serves hot, healthy and restaurant quality meals to the hungry and homeless and those individuals who are temporarily homeless like the residents of the devastated towns of Joplin, MO, Moore, OK, La Place, LA and those who lost their homes in the Bastrop fires.
As the court date to contest the ticket approaches, Cheever is considering mounting a religious freedom defense, citing laws very similar to the RFRA, which caused so much controversy in Indiana this spring. "This is how I pray," she says, "when I cook this food and deliver it to the people who are less fortunate."
Cheever is scheduled to go before Municipal Court on June 23, but she remained defiant after receiving the citation, arguing that under the 1999 Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, she has a right to serve food to the homeless because she considers it a free exercise of her religion.
Over the past year, it’s become increasingly obvious that the city wants its homeless population out of the view of downtown tourists. It wants to push the homeless west of downtown to Haven for Hope, and discourage any acts of compassion that might divert them from that destination.
Express-News reporter Benjamin Olivo also reported that benches had been discreetly removed from Houston Street because city staffers worried that the benches led to loitering and panhandling in the area. “(The city) has already made being poor and homeless a crime,” Cheever said, “and now they’re going after Good Samaritans. “I always say, 'We’re not working against Haven for Hope, we’re working with them.’ They have a waiting list, and they send their people over to us, and we feed them.”