Celebrities & Pop Culture

Ellen DeGeneres Gave A Big Surprise To The Woman Who Helped Homeless People Get Hotel Rooms During Chicago’s Extreme Cold

Candice Payne selflessly helped others during the recent polar vortex.

This week, Ellen DeGeneres delivered a major surprise to a woman who used her personal credit card to help homeless people escape from Chicago’s extreme winter weather. The talk show host gifted Chicago resident Candice Payne with $50,000 on a recent episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” after hearing her story.

Payne, a real estate developer, assisted the homeless during the city’s recent polar vortex by coming up with a plan to move people off the streets. Though multiple hotels turned down her requests for assistance at first, Payne eventually secured 30 rooms on her own American Express card. She booked the rooms at the only motel willing to go along with the plan and provide shelter from the freezing weather: the Amber Inn in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago.

Polar Vortex Brings Extreme Cold Temperatures To Chicago
Getty Images | Scott Olson

Payne then posted on social media, asking for help with transportation. She soon received dozens of responses from other Chicagoans who wanted to help out as well. Payne and a group of local volunteers ended up booking over 70 rooms at the Amber Inn. Their efforts enabled over 122 people — including pregnant women, children and some recently hospitalized and disabled individuals — to take shelter from the cold.

Initially, DeGeneres presented Payne with a $25,000 check from Walmart. Then, DeGeneres revealed that she felt so moved by hearing her story that she called Walmart during a commercial break and convinced them to give Payne another $25,000. That brought the total up to $50,000.

ellen degeneres photo
Getty Images | Jason Kempin

After this experience, Payne said her next goal was to use her professional expertise in real estate to buy distressed properties and rehab them as part of a nonprofit initiative to help the homeless.

She also dispelled the misconception that homeless people are lazy or unwilling to work. Payne also revealed that her own boyfriend had been homeless at one point in his life.

“Truth be told, a lot of people are one paycheck away from their same situation,” she said.

Watch the entire interview posted on the show’s official YouTube channel below: