As the historic and deadly cold snap swept through Chicago and areas around the midwest U.S. this week, a local businesswoman, Candice Payne was worried about the fate of the homeless population outside.
While the city experienced record sub-zero temperatures, the 34-year-old broker thought of ways to get such people, particularly those at a nearby homeless shelter, out of the cold.
With her husband, Payne first went to a tent city near the Dan Ryan Expressway on Tuesday night where a fire caused by a propane tank explosion had left scores of residents homeless.
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She decided to pay to shelter the over 70 people she found at the site and soon started contacting hotels.
“No one wanted them, but one hotel, the Amber Inn, was nice enough to allow me to buy the rooms,” Payne told TODAY.
The real estate developer found 30 rooms available at the Amber Inn for Wednesday night at $70 per room, which she paid with her credit card, reports the New York Times.
Announcing this on her Instagram account, she asked for help to shuttle the homeless people from the blistering cold in the South Side and into the nearby motel.
Lots of people who read her post decided to help, bringing in their cars, S.U.V.s to transport them. Initially, Payne had a hard time convincing the families at the homeless encampment to come with her.
“They didn’t want to leave. They were worried about their belongings being stolen,” she said. “A lot of the men told the women, ‘You go, and I’ll watch the stuff.'”
Payne assured the men that she would replace any lost belongings and finally, the people, including those with disabilities and a pregnant woman agreed to follow her.
“I begged them to come with me. It was negative 25 degrees at the time.”
“We had to accommodate everyone. It was really overwhelming.”
“They were so appreciative. They couldn’t wait to get in a bath and lay in a bed,” Payne said.
To make them comfortable, Payne also bought them food, snacks, toiletries, and prenatal vitamins while restaurants and other Good Samaritans donated food and monies.
With her group of volunteers, Payne drove around Chicago’s South Loop in search of people out in the cold, reports CNN.
“We got people from the police stations, hospitals, outside huddled around fire pits. We drove around looking for them,” she said. “What inspired me was my current blessings, so I was just trying to give back.”
Spending $4,700 on the rooms and the above-mentioned materials, Payne got additional funding from other people and soon, she was able to pay for 60 rooms for more than 100 people.
Temperatures were expected to reach a moderate level by Thursday, hence the people should occupy the rooms till then. However, following the massive donations received (over $10,000), they were able to stay till Sunday.
“It all sounded like a rich person did this, but I’m just a little black girl from the South Side. I thought it was unattainable, but after seeing this and seeing people from all around the world, that just tells me that it’s not that unattainable. We can all do this together,” Payne, who is seeking other ways to help the homeless in Chicago said.
For her act of kindness, Payne has been hailed by many people, including J.B. Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, as a hero.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
Thank you for this BUT she needs more than a hand clap…can someone that knows her start a GoFundMe for her to recoup her money? Maybe she can quit her job and do this fulltime
— Geekista (@africaatl) February 3, 2019
Awesome! She is a hero! I’m thankful for her & others who helped our fellow Americans to hv a place to stay & food to eat. It’s so sad ppl hv to live on the streets in sub zero temps in the richest & so called greatest nation on earth! The moral compass in gvrmn’t is gone! ???
— Vikyki84 (@Vikkkyy84) February 3, 2019
— Tweetsy (@Tweetsy50778049) February 3, 2019
if God made Angel he made her she’s a savior to people God sent her and she’s an angel and what he did was the best thing that people ever can see and God bless her she just sent of angel from God
— John Blue (@JohnBlu67886142) February 3, 2019
What a great story!
— Иисус Христос Мари (@jhcmarie) February 3, 2019
Great but where are our multimillionaire super stars?
— David (@sccavie93) February 3, 2019
— Renee C (@ReneeCrum76) February 3, 2019
This is Amazing!!
— Tonia Irving Isley (@toniaiisley) February 3, 2019
What a beautiful human.
— SoujournerDaTruth (@Bukalove04) February 3, 2019
Great job, great heart! ❤️#candicepayne
— Keita (@KeitaSalley) February 3, 2019
This woman is a blessing. “I am a regular personI. It all sounded like a rich person did this, but I’m just a little black girl from the South Side. I thought it was unattainable, but after seeing this and seeing people from all around the world, that just tells me that it’s not”
— New Year No Fear (@ilanarichmond) February 3, 2019
This is a heartwarming story pic.twitter.com/ANak6IXxIy
— Karen Cyars (@KarenCyars1) February 4, 2019
I live in Chicago. I see the sand homeless people daily. I was so worried about them. I am glad someone made a difference!
— Jenny Long (@JenLong02) February 3, 2019