February 2, 2019 12:07 am
Updated: February 2, 2019 4:14 pm

Chicago woman rented 20 rooms to bring homeless out of the cold. Then others tripled them

Candice Payne started it all, impulsively charging 20 hotel rooms on her American Express card after realizing how dangerous this week’s sub-zero temperatures would be for the Chicagoans without homes. She posted about it on social media and soon the donations and offers to help bring food came flooding in.


Candice Payne had driven past the homeless camp near Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway numerous times — and thought of it again when the region plunged to “life-threatening” cold temperatures this week.

The camp, which housed more than 100 people, was located close to Roosevelt Road and Des Plaines Avenue, and residents there were only keeping warm thanks to propane tanks, The Chicago Tribune reported.

WATCH: Jan. 31 – ‘Polar vortex’ grips major U.S. cities in historic low temperatures

They were living there as temperatures dropped to levels that could cause frostbite in as little as five minutes.

Payne, a real estate broker, was concerned that the resources didn’t exist to bring them out of the cold.

So then she took charge herself, paying for 20 hotel rooms on her American Express card at $70 each, CBS Chicago reported.

Together with friends, she drove to the site on Tuesday and took as many as would go to the Amber Inn.

Payne had tried to shelter them at numerous hotels but this was the only one that was willing, the Tribune reported.

Her kind action triggered plenty more — strangers started donating money, food, and transportation.

The situation for the homeless became more urgent when a propane tank exploded at the camp on Wednesday, and residents were forced to leave as officials confiscated the tanks, after they had triggered a “level 1 hazmat” alert.

READ MORE: Good Samaritan buys hotel rooms for 70 homeless people caught up in polar vortex

On the same day, Payne and friends went back to the camp and took another group of people to the Amber Inn.

By this time, they had gathered enough donations to cover 60 rooms, accommodating over 100 people.

WATCH: Jan. 31 — Polar vortex strikes U.S. Midwest, causing ‘life-threatening’ cold

“I had strangers from social media who are now lifelong friends helping me,” Payne told CNN.

She posted about her assistance to the homeless on Instagram, and people have since volunteered time, money and even helped to cook for the Amber Inn guests.

Initially, the Salvation Army received a request to house as many as 70 people.

READ MORE: U.S. Midwest cities seeing ‘life-threatening’ cold — trains cancelled, mail service suspended

Thanks to Payne and her people, they didn’t have to.

“We don’t get that type of help,” said Jermaine, a camp resident who said he was readying to sleep on the street, even as the cold bore down.

“I really needed them at that point, so they came right in time.”

Payne had never met a number of the people who helped the homeless out.

Now, they’re “lifelong friends,” she told CNN.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.