Chicago REALTOR® on a Mission to End Homelessness

Candice Payne has built a nonprofit to give homeless people a place to stay rent-free for a year while they get back on their feet.

When a polar vortex brought subzero temperatures to Chicago in the winter of 2019, Candice Payne, a broker at EXP Realty, wondered what would happen to homeless people who had no refuge from the life-threatening freeze. She started calling area hotels to see if she could book rooms to provide short-term shelter for the homeless during the polar vortex. Most of the establishments declined. But one, The Amber Inn on the city’s South Side, told Payne that she could book as many rooms as she needed.

Payne ended up booking 30 rooms and charged the cost to her personal credit card. She then started driving around, picking up homeless people and taking them to the hotel. She also posted about her efforts on social media, and before she knew it, she’d gone viral. Her inbox was flooded with messages from people who wanted to donate money, food, clothing, toiletries and their time to the cause.

In no time, Payne’s good deeds garnered national attention in The New York Times and on NPR. She was even a guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and was provided a $50,000 donation from Walmart.

But Payne has since created a more permanent solution for those experiencing homelessness. Through her nonprofit, Action for a Cause, Payne purchases vacant lots and Chicago-area homes that need some rehab. Money raised through the nonprofit—as well as Payne’s GoFundMe page—is used to rehab and furnish the homes. She then provides the spaces rent-free for a year to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. Twelve months with a safe and comfortable living space provides these individuals and families with an opportunity to regroup mentally and physically and get back on their feet.

That’s not all Payne is doing to create permanent solutions to homelessness, though. Recently, she opened a smoothie shop, also on the city’s South Side, called Smoothie RX, which employs homeless people and pays them a living wage. “I love the fact that I am in a position to help,” Payne says. “No matter your success, you should always reach out and help someone in need.”

Learn more about Payne and other real estate pros who are making a difference in their communities at the REALTORS® Are Good Neighbors Facebook page.