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.
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.”
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.”
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”.
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.
“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