Hospitality with heart: Chicago entrepreneur crowdfunds 60 hotel rooms for homeless amid polar vortex

by | Feb 4, 2019 | News

Real estate broker Candice Payne’s campaign sheltered from the biting cold more than 100 homeless in Chicago’s Amber Inn, which in turn lowered prices to accommodate more people

It all started with an Instagram post.

As temperatures in the United States plunged to a once-in-a-generation low last week, Chicago real estate broker Candice Payne used her credit card to secure an initial 30 hotel rooms to shelter some homeless in the city’s South Side.

Several hotels turned her down before the nearby Amber Inn stepped in and accepted her booking request.


Payne posted a poignant message on her Instagram account, saying: “It doesn’t take much to be a blessing for someone else. It’s freezing cold and deadly temperatures outside! For the people who have nowhere to go, no money, no food, family disowned them… they need help. It’s not much but to get them out of the cold, feed them, and provide them with warm clean clothes is a start.”

Evidently, her message struck a chord as Chicago began to respond in kind and by opening up their purse strings.

Initially, friends and strangers volunteered means of transport to ferry the homeless people from their tent city by Chicago’s financial district to the hotel.

Once donations started pouring in on her Cash App and QuickPay accounts, a Go Fund Me campaign was set up.

Payne’s self-confessed “spur-of the-moment” effort would eventually help shelter more than 100 homeless people in almost 60 hotel rooms for a total of five nights.


Robyn Smith, the manager of the Amber Inn, told media: “People from the community started piggybacking off Candice. Other people started calling and anonymously paying for rooms.”

Although each room was initially priced at $70 a night, Smith, in turn, lowered the price to accommodate more people.

Despite temperatures persisting at around -30 degrees Celcius for longer than expected, incoming donations meant Payne could not only prolong their hotel stay, but also feed and provide supplies such as groceries, toiletries and medical packs.

At the time of publishing Payne’s campaign collected more than $14,000.

Among the people she helped shelter from the cold were two pregnant women and a family of five.

“We had to accommodate everyone. It was really overwhelming. They were so appreciative. They couldn’t wait to get in a bath and lay in a bed,” Payne said.

“I am a regular person,” she added. “It all sounded like a rich person did this, but I’m just a little black girl from the South Side.”

“I thought it was unattainable, but after seeing this and seeing people from all around the world, that just tells me that it’s not that unattainable. We can all do this together.”

Let’s take a look at a few other projects currently underway in Chicago:

Curio Collection by Hilton Navy Pier 

Vib by Biest Western Chicago

Hampton Inn Illinois Medical District (MD) 

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