The deep freeze in Chicago has left the city’s homeless population at an alarming risk with the dangerously low temperatures.
In Chicago’s University Village, a group of about 70 homeless citizens had been camping out in tents without any heat source in 22 degrees below zero conditions.
Originally, members of the group had been using over one hundred donated propane tanks to keep them warm in the bone chilling temperatures but after one exploded — the chief Walter Schroeder of the Chicago Fire Department informed them to stop using them as the tanks could lead to an explosion comparable to a “bomb going off.”
And while the fire department removed the tanks from the campsite, the Salvation Army had made plans to move the group to a warming center.
But thanks to an anonymous and generous individual, the plans changed.
It was the second coldest day in the history of Chicago when a kind soul decided to put up 70 homeless people in a hotel, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The mysterious donor did not just pick up the bill for one night — but for an entire week, making sure the folks had time to warm up and keep out of the snow.
As the extreme conditions took over Chicago, shelter officials had encouraged homeless citizens to take cover at homeless shelter but this particular group had decided to stay the makeshift campsite.
A homeless man by the name of Tony Neeley, shared why he was hesitant to go head to a homeless shelter, saying to The New York Times:
“You don’t understand. A lot of us don’t go to the shelters because of bedbugs, we don’t go because people steal from you, we don’t go because you can’t even really sleep in the shelter. But my feet are cold, and these clothes are all I’ve got.”
There are close to 80,000 homeless people living in the Chicago area, according to The New York Times.
Then, WGN’s Mike Lowe was able to track down the anonymous giver who set the whole plan into motion.
The South Side business woman, Candice Payne, shared how she did not want attention but her goal was to make no one suffer through the harsh weather.
“I was crying,” Payne said.
Payne was overwhelmed and make the decision to pay for hotel rooms herself — attempting to get as many folks to safety as she could.
“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.”
Payne’s kindness spread like wildfire — with her friends starting to also pitch in after Payne paid for 20 hotel rooms at Amber Inn, 3901 S. Michigan Avenue.
“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.”
Payne shared how both she as well as her business partner, Armez Spearman, have invested $12,000 of their own money to help close to 100 people stay off the streets during particularly unforgiving nights weather-wise in Chicago.
“We’re not an organization,” Payne said. “We’re just regular people.”
For both Payne as well as her husband, Carolos Callahan, the choice was a personal one.
“I lived in my vehicle,” Callahan shared, also saying how he has 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.”
Currently, Pyane is organizing an online fundraiser to begin working on a solution that is more permanent.
“Of course we can’t solve homelessness … overnight,” Payne shared. “But it’s cold in Chicago every year.”
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