Meet the South Side woman who paid for hotel rooms for Chicago’s homeless

CHICAGO — You may have heard of the good Samaritans who paid for hotel rooms for nearly 100 homeless people over the last few nights.

WGN’s Mike Lowe tracked down Candice Payne, the Chicago woman who spearheaded the effort.

The South Side entrepreneur said she never wanted attention. Her goal was simply to make sure nobody suffered in the bitter weather.

As a punishing cold front swept into Chicago earlier this week, the city’s homeless were forced to trudge forward in temperatures of 25 below zero. Wind child were twice as low. Along Roosevelt Road near the Dan Ryan Expy., encampments of thin tents barely broke the arctic air.

“I was crying,” Payne said.

It was too much for Payne to handle, so she decided to pay for hotel rooms — out of her own pocket — to try to get as many people to warmth as possible.

“I went on social media and asked people if they have vans or anything,” Payne said. “Would anyone want to pitch in to help me to transport? [I said] I’ll pay them for the vans to come and help.”

Her act of generosity quickly spread. Payne paid for 20 hotel rooms at Amber Inn, 3901 S. Michigan Ave. Friends started pitching in.

“It went from us being able to provide 20 rooms, to us being able to provide 60 rooms,” Payne said. “It was only going to be for one night, and it went from one night to four nights.”

So far, Payne said, she and business partner Armez Spearman have spent $12,000 of their own money to help nearly 100 people stay off the streets during bitter days and nights.

“We’re not an organization,” Payne said. “We’re just regular people.”

For Payne and her husband, Carlos Callahan, it was personal.

“I lived in my vehicle,” Callahan said, adding that he’s spent time living on the streets.

“People judge the homeless a lot,” he said. “But you never know what these people went through. And I know for me, I wasn’t on drugs, I wasn’t in a bad situation at home. Things just happened.”

However the homeless people she helped arrived on the streets, Payne said, she wanted to make sure their stories wouldn’t end there.

“It was freezing,” Payne said. “No one could have stayed outside that long.”

Payne is putting together an online fundraiser to start working on a more permanent solution.

“Of course we can’t solve homelessness ... overnight,” Payne said. “But it’s cold in Chicago every year.”

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