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The Source: Ordinances Attempt To Drive Homeless To Services

David Martin Davies

 *2:30 p.m. Post Updated to reflect comments from the City of San Antonio.

The recent citation of Joan Cheever and her Chow Train mobile food wagon by San Antonio Police, highlighted ordinances passed in many cities across the country aimed at dissuading people from assisting the poor.

The City of San Antonio maintains the ticket was due to violations to the city's Health ordinances.

The Chow Train's food truck license was expired, but Cheever says she only transported the food in the truck, and that she prepares all the food in a compliant kitchen.

San Antonio also attempted to pass an ordinance that banned giving money to panhandlers, but public ire caused the matter to be dropped. 

City leaders across the country often state that individual efforts only enable the homeless to continue being homeless, rather than creating a centralized system of services.  Cities across the country have instituted policies that they believe will drive the homeless and chronically transient to service providers. Providers like San Antonio's Haven For Hope try to connect individuals with wrap around programs from emergency shelters to health to Veterans programs as well. 

Many have criticized the ordinances in traveler-friendly cities like San Antonio of simply trying to get homeless people out of the sight-lines of tourists.

The questions that remains is do these ordinances violate freedom of religion, and are stand-alone feeding programs enabling the homeless?


  • Joan Cheever, founder of The Chow Train
  • Robert Marbut, former CEO of Haven for Hope, consultant to cities across the country on homelessness policies
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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive