Meet the woman who rented hotel rooms for homeless in Chicago during dangerous polar vortex

By Christopher Brito

/ CBS News

Woman pays hotel tab for Chicago's homeless

A Chicago woman's act of kindness helped homeless people stay warm during this week's dangerous polar vortex. Candice Payne impulsively charged 20 hotel rooms on her credit card before it snowballed into a lifesaving effort by a group of strangers, CBS Chicago reports.

Payne booked the hotel rooms after realizing how life-threatening the sub-zero temperatures would be for the Chicagoans without homes. She posted about it on social media and soon the donations and offers to help bring food came flooding in.

"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," she told CBS Chicago.

On Wednesday, when temperatures plummeted to 22 degrees below zero, a group of homeless people had to abandon their tents near a highway after a propane tank they used as a source of heat exploded. But Payne and other volunteers dug deep into their pockets and picked up the tab for 60 rooms at a hotel on Chicago's South Side.

Volunteers worked together like a family, turning a hotel bathroom into a makeshift kitchen and collecting donations to help replace the items that were lost. And they built lasting friendships even though most of them just met.

Jermaine and Robert, two men who stayed in a hotel room, call Payne their "angel."

When they got the offer for a warm bed, they were getting ready to sleep on the street or to be charged with trespassing in their attempts to escape from the cold.

"We don't get that type of help," Jermaine said. "I really needed them at that point, so they came right in time."

They hugged Payne and thanked her, touched by the unexpected kindness.

"We hear about that on the news and other places but I seen it up close and personal today, and I really want to thank y'all for looking out for our people," Robert said.

So far, this volunteer group has been able to cover three nights at the hotel for approximately 80 people. They're hoping to continue working together to help provide a more long-term solution.

Their generosity made sure dozens of people in need had a warm place to sleep when conditions outside were life-threatening. Across the Midwest and Northeast, at least 22 deaths have been connected to the dangerous polar vortex, and winter still has a long way to got.

First published on February 1, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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