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Hero Worship: Meet Candice Payne, the Woman who Housed 80 Homeless People During the Polar Vortex

If you’re living in a city where people freak out when temperature drop below 70 degrees, then you’re one of the lucky ones. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that much of the country is suffering from far colder weather, and record-setting freezing temperatures are putting people at risk of illness, injury and even death. This is especially true for the homeless, who struggle to seek shelter when deep freezes take cities by storm.

In Chicago, the threat of deadly cold temperatures among the homeless is severe and it is real, and one woman is not just standing by and watching as others suffer.

Meet Candice Payne, a Chicago woman who took the fate of dozens of homeless people into her hands and used her own money to protect them from the dangerously cold temperatures that struck Chicago this winter.

It all started with one act of kindness, almost on a whim. After a propane tank that was being used for heat for people living in Tent City exploded, residents had to abandon that area, losing belongings and with nowhere to go. And to make bad matters worse, this happened just as a dangerous deep freeze hit Chicago, putting the homeless in a desperate situation. Candice Payne broke out her American Express and charged 20 hotel rooms after recognizing that the sub-zero temperatures that were coming would be deadly for anyone without a home or shelter. That’s all it was meant to be at first – she was simply doing her part to help others. But then she posted about her actions on social media and things took off.

Soon others expressed a desire to help and began making donations and bringing in food to help. “Maybe they didn’t know how to or where to start to help, so I’m glad that I was able to be that vehicle,” Candice told CBS News.

What began as the actions of one good Samaritan turned into several people gathering donations to replace belongings that were lost, and digging into their pockets to pay the bill for 60 hotel rooms for any homeless men, women and children in need. So far they have been able to fun three nights at the hotel for more than 80 people in need. And these generous efforts came right in time.

Two of the homeless people helped by Candice Payne’s efforts, Jermaine and Robert, told CBS, “we don’t get that type of help…I really needed them at that point, so they came right in time.”

Payne, who is a Chicago real estate broker, explained that helping others gave her a renewed sense of purpose. She was just a regular person wanting to do good and unable to look away as people’s lives were at risk. And her good deed did not go unnoticed. Days later she appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, where she was presented with $50,000 from Walmart, which she plans to put towards additional support for the homeless in Chicago. As per the Chicago Tribune, She plans to purchase multi-unit buildings around Chicago, which she will use to create housing opportunities for homeless people.

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