Everyone Has A Name: An Innovative Way to Help the Homeless

This is a sponsored post, but I’m going to beg you to read it anyway.

Walking through the city with Charlie these days is an interesting experience. Yesterday we went downtown to see a Christmas light show, visit “Christmas Village” and have lunch with our friend Jim.

But as we walked around downtown, we were repeatedly flagged down by homeless folks – but not just asking for cash. They were very excited to meet the family members of their friend, my husband.

Charlie started photographing the city he grew up in about two years ago, and somewhere along the way he began shooting portraits of the homeless (you can read an article about it here). Many of the homeless were eager to pose for cash, but Charlie took it one step further; he spoke to them, at length, and got their stories – which he also shared.

His project has garnered the attention of the press, and more importantly, the city’s program that helps the homeless. They’ve reached out and asked him to shoot “after” photos of the homeless and help add to their photographic database of Philadelphia’s homeless. It’s been an awesome thing (that he has not profited from in any way).

Eventually, though, Charlie stopped handing out cash. As a recovering alcoholic who occasionally panhandled himself when he was drinking, he knew that often the money was going to feed addictions that contributed to their homelessness. But he also understood that they are people with needs, and he started handing out giftcards instead.

His most popular giftcards? The ones that help the homeless get everything from cold medicine to gloves to tampons (yes, many of the homeless are women) and other needs; gift cards to today’s version of the general store.

The drug store.

One of the biggest drug stores in downtown Philly is Walgreen’s, which you might remember has sponsored several posts here at this blog in the last couple of months. Because they were kind enough to compensate me for writing about them, Charlie has distributed Walgreen’s gift cards to the homeless to help them meet some of their basic needs. His gift card “program” is so popular that his friend Steve Frenkel sent Walgreen’s gift cards for Charlie to distribute.

As we walked around the city yesterday, Karl – a homeless man we chatted with near Broad Street – asked my husband if he had “cards” to hand out (sadly, we did not; our visit to the city was unplanned). Karl also told us that Charlie was a “saint,” something I already knew (he puts up with me, after all). But I’m pleased that Charlie’s been able to help, just a little, in this city of ours.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for something to do that helps, consider handing out gift cards to the homeless in your area. It can really, really make a difference.

Photos are (in order of appearance) of Mary, Jimmy, and Jennifer.


Walgreen’s compensated me for this post in part to let you all know about their Balance Rewards program. Of course opinions are my own, but you already knew that.

Comments Closed


  1. 4katnap says

    Charlie is Awesome. I’m so glad he is being recognized for how awesome he is both by the world in general and the people he helps. There is a special place in my heart for people that care for others.

    Thank You Charlie for caring.

  2. Molly says

    Kinda impressed with Walgeens right now for being sufficiently open to having homeless gift card customers they sponsered a post on it. I’ve seen so many stores run the homeless right out on the street whether they were making purchases or not.

  3. says

    Love Charlie’s projects and love Walgreens. They also have a huge commitment to employing people with disabilities which you know scores big points with me.

    On Wednesday I went to an event held by the Education Law Center, and learned that PA has 30k homeless kids, half are under age 6. So kudos to him for bringing names to faces, on a topic that no one wants to know about.

  4. says

    Amazing! What a great story. I know I have seen a lot of different “drives” around here for personal items that are packaged up for the homeless. So many people do not consider homeless, they just see it as a problem. People need to understand the story behind them becoming homeless. Then of course there are the kids who have no choice in the matter. I think it is great that he is handing out gift cards to places like Walgreens!

  5. Angela says

    Yay, Walgreens! I will go out of my way to support them now.

    Btw, I like that your Uppercase bird is bundled up for winter. Cute!

  6. Tine says

    Huh…gift cards. Now why didn’t I think of that? Thanks, Walgreen’s, for sponsoring a post on homelessness. That’s not something ya see every day.

  7. says

    Interesting. I didn’t know about Walgreen’s interest in this sort of program but I have, by coincidence, given many of their gift certificates to indigent people, for exactly the reasons that Charlie points out.

  8. Crysi says

    I started handing out granola bars. It was something nonperishable that I could keep in the car. When I told my husband what I was doing, he had me buy him granola bars to keeo at work. He’s a police officer so he sees a lot of what we don’t want to see & it took some prodding from me. (They’re not ALL criminals!) His stash is running low, he’s handed out so many. The gift card is also a great idea. He’s bought several homeless people cups of coffee while at work too.