Real estate broker Candice Payne, 34, is not rich. She describes herself as "a regular person, a little black girl from Chicago's south side." But to some in Chicago, she's far from regular. Thanks to her, more than 100 homeless people unexpectedly found themselves with food, fresh clothes, and a warm place to stay in January when wind chills reached 50 below. "I knew they were going to be sleeping on ice, and I had to do something," she said.
First, she contacted hotels and found 30 vacant rooms at the Amber Inn for $70/room. She paid for them with her credit card. Then she used Instagram to ask for people to transport homeless folks from the tent city where they have lived for years. Soon she had a caravan of cars, SUV's and vans with volunteer drivers. Two pregnant women and a family of five were among the first she picked up. Meanwhile, donations were pouring in to her Cash App account. She bought toiletries, food, prenatal vitamins, lotions, deodorants and snacks and made care packages so people would feel comfortable. Restaurants donated trays of food. People started calling the Amber Inn anonymously, paying for rooms, and the inn lowered it's price to welcome more homeless. What began as 30 rooms doubled to 60, and with donations of more than $10,000, Candice was able to house homeless in the hotel longer than expected. Contributions came from all round the world, said Candice. And the homeless? "They were so appreciative," she said. "They couldn't wait to get in a bath and lay in a bed."