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CHICAGO — The owner of a food truck in Chicago is turning a damaging fire into an opportunity to expand.

For the last year and a half Khaled Simon’s taco truck has been used to serve the homeless population across Chicago. But after a fire earlier this month, the truck and the outreach efforts have been out of commission.

In the middle of the night on December 12, Simon woke up to find his food truck Taco Sublime on fire.

“I wake up and I open the door and I just see the fireman and he’s just hosing her all down,” he said.

All of the grills and ovens were off in the truck. Firefighters told Simon that a flame caught the insulation and it quickly spread and caused damage throughout the inside of the kitchen.

“You don’t wake up to think that everything you’ve worked so hard for, everything that you’ve dreamed of, is going to be torn away in like a second,” he said.

The food truck is much more than just a business. Simon sells tacos a few days a week out the window but those sales are helping fund the real mission.

Since March of 2020, Simon has been using the truck to deliver food and necessities to transient communities and homeless encampments across Chicago as part of his non-profit the Under the Bridge Project.

“Every taco that you purchase at Taco Sublime is a meal that directly translates to them,” he said. “We go around through different communities and not only do we provide essentials for all the communities, we also partner with other organizations to bring them resources.”

But with the truck damaged, the efforts are on hold until repairs can be made.

“What we are aiming for is getting it a whole rebuild, getting a new insulation, wrapping her all up and getting her back into these communities that need us so much,” Simon said.

And while some in this situation may be disheartened, the fire sparked a bigger idea in Simon. He now has a plan to take the outreach a step further by bringing in those they serve.

Simon started a GoFundMe to help rebuild the truck and fund a brick and mortar community space.

“Where we can not only feed and render our business side of Taco Sublime, but also do the non-profit work that we do be a resource to the community,” Simon said.

The idea is too reintegrate those experiencing homelessness through societal food and service.

“Show them how to cook, show them how to clean, give them those little skillsets that will allow them to go find a job,” he said.

Simon said they’ve served at least 5,000 people so far with Taco Sublime and the Under the Bridge Project. But with his new plan, he knows they’ll be able to help so many more.