When hairdresser Joshua Coombes finishes his day working in a salon treating clients and barbering, he then takes to the streets to provide the homeless with free haircuts.
Following a trip to New York, he saw a similar concept and felt inspired to begin a similar campaign in his home town of Devon.
It’s been a massive success and has lead to his story being featured in the Daily Mail and the Metro. We’ve managed to catch up with Joshua to find out more about the #dosomethingfornothing campaign…
What inspired you to #dosomethingfornothing?
#dosomethingfornothing was born from a want to give more. I was walking past people sleeping rough on a daily basis in my home city and somehow giving a bit of pocket change didn’t feel good anymore. I used to walk away thinking I wish I’d stopped to speak to them. Analysing it now, I was just looking for a way to do something more personal than just dropping money into a hat. I spent some time in New York and saw a similar movement going on there. This was all the inspiration I needed to get out there and do the same. Follow the movement over on Twitter @joshuaacoombes and Instagram @joshuacoombes.
How did it all begin? Did you just approach people on the streets and offer them a free haircut?
It’s all about sitting down, being real and having a conversation. Just spending time with somebody is the most important thing. The first time I cut hair on the street was after leaving the salon one day. I had all of my gear on me to go and cut a friends hair that evening. I saw a homeless man up ahead sitting in a shop doorway, had 30 seconds to make my mind up and decided to approach him. After a few minutes I told him what I do and that I’d love to cut his hair for him. It all stemmed from that moment.
You’re going out on the streets after a full day in the salon to help make a difference, how many cuts do you usually do a night?
I usually go out and do this on my day off now. I have been out after work before but when cutting hair outside you rely heavily on natural light so winter evenings make this a bit harder. I go out on Mondays now. Haircuts can vary from anywhere between 5-10 each time, it all depends on where we are each week. This is something that I’ve taken to various different cities so sometimes locating is all part of the process.
How much does a free haircut mean to these people?
The hope is that this can do something towards improving self esteem and restoring some dignity for a period of time. It’s a small gesture but that’s sometimes all it can take to realise one’s self worth. For some it can be a simple question of being able to manage their hair more easily on a daily basis.
You must hear a lot of stories from these clients on the streets… what has been your most moving story?
Learning more about people’s lives is a huge part of this. Getting to the grassroots of a problem or a reason why somebody has ended up in this situation is always moving. It’s a great to be able to break the generalisation of just putting somebody in the category of homeless. I think, if we’re honest, most of us probably do this without realising it. I have to treat everyone’s information with sensitivity, but I will say, every story I hear humbles me and makes me realise how much I take for granted.
Your story has gone viral! Do you hope other barbers and hairstylists follow in your footsteps and #dosomethingfornothing?
We’ve had a great response so far. The idea of #dosomethingfornothing is that this movement creates ripples.
It doesn’t matter what your profession is. It’s about taking a little time out to help others in need. If anybody is inspired by this I’d suggest getting out there and doing what you feel you can, either with the skills you have or just with your own initiative.
We live in a busy world that feels massively lacking in everyday human interaction at the moment, so even focusing on that can make a difference. We’re all here and alive at the same time, that amazing fact keeps me motivated most of the time!
Tell us a little bit more about the movement…
In a few articles #dosomethingfornothing has been said to be a ‘raising awareness’ If this happens fantastic, but the idea is more about tapping into that compassionate side we all have inside us. There are already some amazing people and charities doing great work to raise awareness and tackle homelessness. This is just about approaching it from another direction. It puts the power to positively change somebody’s day right in your hands.
It is easy to just give money to charity, but it is even more rewarding to create awareness.
Photography by Matt Spracklen @mattspracklen