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Meet the Liverpool stylist giving haircuts and hope to the homeless

2 months ago

By The Guide Liverpool

<strong>Meet the Liverpool stylist giving haircuts and hope to the homeless</strong>

It may be ‘just a haircut’, but it’s the kindness shown that makes a homeless person know that people really care.

The slogan of charity Haircuts4Homeless says it all.

It’s why Aigburth hairdresser Kerry Jones put her clippers into action three years ago to help launch its services across Merseyside and why, by next year, she’s hoping to double the number of volunteers across the region to help show more homeless and vulnerable people some much-needed care and compassion.

It won’t be easy.

She says: “Like many charities we’re struggling, and we’re struggling at a time when the need is greater than ever.

“Statistics show there’s already an increase in the number of people finding themselves homeless, and it’s only going to get worse.

“It might just seem like a haircut. But what we do gives our clients some self-confidence back, it boosts their self-esteem, and it gives them hope.”

And she adds: “The difference it makes is immense. And it can be life changing. Any help we can get will support that.”

Haircuts4Homeless was started in 2014 by Essex hairdresser Stewart Roberts. An alcoholic who’s been 14 years sober, it was through going to meetings he got involved with cutting people’s hair in vulnerable situations, and it grew.

It’s still a small charity but there are now 68 projects across the UK and Ireland, with around 500 volunteers.

Mum-of-two Kerry is team leader for Merseyside with five regular volunteers and two new people to the team.

Haircuts homeless
L-R Belinda (Stewart’s sister and admin for the charity), Kerry, Stewart, and volunteer, Georgia.

She says: “Prior to Covid we just worked with The Whitechapel Centre, but since Covid it’s just exploded with requests from different charities and hostels, who have seen our posts on Facebook and on Instagram.

“Currently we work with 11 hostels and centres across the region including Whitechapel, the YMCA, Emmaus Merseyside, New Start Homes, and Saha, which is the Salvation Army.

“The people we see are all vulnerable, ranging from rehab centres where people have drink and drug issues, or harm reduction issues, to homeless hostels and centres for victims of domestic violence.

“What we offer is human contact. There’s something about a hairdresser that when you’re in the chair and having someone touch you and work with your hair, it just makes people relax and open up, and feel connected to another human being. And the gratitude and trust we get is immense.”

Kerry and John at a Whitechapel Centre hostel. He sadly passed away a few months ago but he ‘touched my heart’.

People open up about their stories, says Kerry, their difficulties, their addictions, and about their hopes of wanting to get out of the situation they are in.

“It’s very humbling,” she adds. “And it’s a reminder that it could happen to anybody. There’s a lot of the stigma around people who are homeless, but they’re not there by choice, they’re not there because they chose to take drugs or become an alcoholic; it’s all just a downward spiral of events in their lives that have put them into a vulnerable situation.”

For women who have been in a domestic violence situation, leaving and living on the streets can be the only way out of the harmful relationship.

One man Kerry came across was a construction worker who had been injured at work and, through the insurance company not paying out and him being physically unable to do his job, and the emotional effect of not being able to support his partner, he ended up losing everything.

Kerry is realistic about what she and her team can do.

“We can’t change the world. We can’t change their lives, but we can hopefully put a smile on their faces just by cutting their hair and having a chat.

“We have had clients who have managed to get a job interview lined up, so we have done their hair before it, and it’s a huge boost for them.

“For others it helps them to feel a little bit better about themselves, they can be like a different person. 

“We go every six weeks to each different hostel and even people who are closed off from that community, we can get a hug off them, they are more outgoing, so it does change people. If there’s a few of us, we have laugh and a bit of banter, it’s some normality.

“The transformation when you remove that mattered hair, and for instance, give women a style again, there’s no words for it. Often their hair is the last thing on their minds when they’re just out there struggling to survive, but to be able to do this for them, and see the difference it makes to their self-esteem and confidence, is a privilege.”

Kerry and her team go out every Monday, giving two hours each to two hostels and she would like to have more volunteers so she can double that and have two teams working those same hours: “So we don’t have to say no to anybody.”

She would also be grateful for donations to the charity to help fund the work they do: “We give our time for free but there are petrol costs, as well as products and equipment we need.

“It would be nice to have sponsors long-term, but any donations would be very much appreciated.

“Everybody has a right to feel good about themselves even if it’s just when we’re doing their hair. It gives people something to look forward to, a bit of contact, and it’s a cumulative effect.

“It might just be 10 minutes in the chair, but it can change someone’s life.”

* Anyone interested in volunteering can get in touch with Kerry on 07973 159807. Find out more here.

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