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Act of dignity: US beautician gives free haircuts to the homeless

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When we think of supporting people who are homeless, we often assume that a donation or spending time in a food kitchen will help.

And while both these things are invaluable, other small day-to-day factors are important, too.

Getting a haircut is a luxury that is out of range for most people living on the streets; yet, it makes a difference both practically, and from a self-esteem point of view.

That’s why Samantha Sphikas, a hairdresser living in the US borough of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, decided to volunteer her time recently.

Samantha Sphikas said she wanted to donate her skills

Samantha Sphikas said she wanted to donate her skills

As Sphikas has no money to donate, she decided to spend her day off giving free trims and buzz cuts at Street 2 Feet, an outreach centre that supports vulnerable homeless people in her area.

“I figured I would help out the community with my services because I don't have money or anything to donate besides my skills,” Sphikas told WBRE TV, who reported the story.

“I just figured I'd lift people up a little bit.”

Read more: How to really make a difference and help those sleeping rough

Around a dozen people turned up to take advantage of Sphikas’ services, including local resident Dorothy Clarke.

“It was nice, I’m glad I had it,” said Clarke, after her trim. “I needed to get the knots and stuff out.”

"No-one has ever become poor by giving." Anne Frank. // 📷 - @mattspracklen

A post shared by #DoSomethingForNothing (@dosomethingfornothing) on

Sphikas is not the first stylist to put her skills to a worthy cause.

London hairdresser Josh Coombes (above) has spent the past two years giving free haircuts to men and women sleeping rough in London, as part of his #DoSomethingforNothing campaign.

“This isn’t going to change [anyone’s] life right now, but it’s just about providing that empathy we all should have,” the 29-year-old tells the BBC.

“I keep all my hairdressing gear in my backpack and when I’m walking through London, if I see someone on the street – I’ll approach them,” he says. “I tell them who I am, what I want to do for them. And if they want their haircut, then I’m ready with my scissors to give them a makeover.”

“I was looking for a way to connect with people, more than anything,” he says, noting that cutting someone’s hair is “quite an intimate act”.

@JoshuaCoombes checking in. | This is Laura, 25 years old. Laura has been sleeping rough on and off in Dublin for the last seven years. She spent a small amount of time in Prison recently, when she got out, the streets were her only option once more. I can only imagine the thought of leaving prison to find yourself in perhaps a worse situation in the outside world. Laura had a really nervous demeanour. When myself and one of the guys from @dublinsimoncommunity approached her, it felt like we were probably the first people to come and say hi to her that day. I really enjoyed the time I spent cutting her hair. I've come to realise, one of best things about doing anything like this is accepting the challenge. It's about getting beyond the surface contact and connecting with the person underneath. That can be an amazing experience. Laura spoke to me about some of her struggles in past relationships and with family, saying drugs have played too much of a part in her life so far. I really believe in chucking stereotypes away when it comes to anybody that uses drugs. There's a fundamental difference between recreational drug use and using drugs to heal a wound or fill a void, psychologically speaking. Without access to a time machine, I'm not going to categorise anybody. Laura hadn't had her hair done for a while so I cut a nice line back in, with some layers and graduation. #DoSomethingForNothing #Dublin #Ireland #compassion

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Coombes says an important part of the hairdressing process is not just to reach out to people who are homeless and interact with them, but also to restore their self-belief a little.

Read more: The greatest ever, most inspiring acts of kindness

“When they look in the mirror at the end, that’s a really big part of it,” he says.

“To think, ‘Hey, I’ve still got this. I can fare with everyone else here. I might not have looked after myself for the last little while, but I can go for that job interview or I can what into that place, and feel confident to do so.’”

Main photo: iStock


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