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My wrong assumptions about the person who gave 100+ homeless people hotel rooms during Polar Vortex

When news stories picked up that some lovely, anonymous Samaritan was able to put dozens of homeless in hotels around Chicago while the record polar vortex dropped temperatures to -39 degrees Celsius, I instantly had a picture of that person in my head.

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Clearly, it’s some rich dude. Hotel rooms aren’t cheap, especially during a crisis. I imagined a philanthropist with a heart of gold, like I’ve seen in many films. Perhaps a billionaire who hasn’t been afflicted with affluenza giving back to the community, reaching back to help those in need.

I admit, the person who popped in my head was not a young, black millennial who described herself as a “regular” person who just wanted to help: 

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That’s her. Candice Payne. She would have remained anonymous, but word got out—and I’m glad it did. She deserves to have her praises sung.

To say that she likely saved dozens of lives is not an exaggeration. 

She and her husband own a business on the South Side, and she passed by a homeless camp every day on her way to work. These weren’t just homeless men, there were women and children (some with disabilities) living in this camp as well.

When temperatures dropped below freezing, she was rightfully concerned. Fearing that local charities wouldn’t have the resources to help everyone in the camp, she organized an effort to get them shelter.  She put together a team of eight business owners, and she called “dozens of motels” to secure rooms.  

Only one would accept them:  the Amber Inn motel.  (Which is where I’m staying the next time I visit the Windy City.)

Candice posted an Instagram message begging for people with passenger vans to help get them to the hotel quickly. Her selfless act inspired others to pitch in and help. People started donating food, clothing, and diapers.  Her business partners cooked meals at the hotel.  Volunteers started driving around other encampments to rescue others.

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Candice lit a fire, and is a freaking hero.  

I’m so happy and lucky that good people like Candice Payne exist among us. She’s a good reminder that there are so many good people out there actually helping those in need, even while others continue to just be vile.

One good example of doing the opposite is Orlando’s Channel 9 WFTV, which has run multiple stories on the horror of homeless people using our libraries.  The most recent story featured two disdainful reporters, including one named Steve Barrett, sporting a zipped-down pullover, complaining to viewers that  “you can see over here, there's a homeless feeding right next door”, as if they were animals. 

What sad, little men.

Thank you, Candice. Not just for being amazing, but for being the face I’ll picture the very next time I hear a story about an anonymous person doing something wonderful to restore my faith in humanity.  


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