Chicago always has cold winters. The air blowing in off of Lake Michigan regularly makes it feel as though you’re standing in Antarctica.
But the viciousness of January’s cold snap almost made that sensation a reality. According to KHOU, temperatures plunged to negative 25 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 30.
That’s unpleasant enough for middle-class Chicagoans. But as the temperature fell, a number of kind souls began to wonder something: What was going to happen to the homeless?
WBBM-TV reported that Salvation Army worker Richard Vargas and others from the Christian relief organization went tent to tent on the Chicago streets with sandwiches and containers of food.
But Vargas wanted to do more than merely feed these cold souls. He was trying to get them off the streets so they wouldn’t freeze to death.
“We’re going to beg them to come in and get warm,” Maj. Nancy Powers of the Chicago Salvation Army said. “They can come here.
“They can go to any shelter that they choose. We will pick them up and deliver them wherever they want to be just to be safe and off the street.”
Some took them up on it, and the city got involved, too. Yet as the homeless were getting moved to a Salvation Army warming center, something odd happened.
A call reportedly came in that someone had agreed put to all of the homeless up in a hotel for a week. In truth, though, more than one individual was involved with the effort.
WBBM reported that a woman named Candice Payne and her husband started off by renting 20 hotel rooms for the homeless. The couple knew about a nearby homeless camp and feared what the cold would do to its inhabitants.
“We wanted to get as much of them out of there as possible,” Payne told the Chicago Tribune. But their efforts soon snowballed as others heard about what they were doing.
After Payne posted about what she was doing on social media, more people joined in. Some gave donations, while others brought food.
After calling scores of hotels, Payne found The Amber Inn in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. It was the only establishment that would agree to take in the homeless.
A group of about eight friends reportedly joined Payne at the Amber Inn where they coordinated meals and brought cold-weather clothing.
“This is just regular people trying to help,” Payne said. The people may have been regular, but the effort was extraordinary.
A homeless man named Jermaine praised Payne, saying, “We don’t get that type of help. I really needed them at that point, so they came right in time.”
Liftable, a brand of The Western Journal, has reached out to Salvation Army spokeswoman Jacqueline Rachev for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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