Getting your hair cut at a salon may be a pricey endeavour, but when it’s done right it can make you feel like a million dollars.
In fact you probably booked a hair appointment the last time you had something important coming up – a wedding, a holiday, or ahead of a job interview.
But what if you’re homeless and getting a trim just isn’t an option when you’re sleeping rough and struggling to piece together enough to eat most days?
Joshua Coombes is a British hairdresser who has been cutting the hair of London’s homeless since 2o15 – but he hasn’t accepted a single penny for it.
Armed with just his scissors and photographer friend Matt Spracklen’s camera, the pair have been visiting homeless men and women to cut their hair and hear about their stories.
This is Lee, 33 years old. Lee hails from Maidstone, Kent. Him and his friend Phil came to London a few years ago, wanting to leave Maidstone behind due to getting in trouble with some people they shouldn’t have. Best friends since they were kids, the pair headed to the capital to make a new start for themselves. They moved into a place together and started looking for work. After a few months of only being able to find temporary work here and there, it wasn’t long before they had to share a room to save money. This too eventually became to difficult to maintain, forcing them both to homelessness. This has now been their way life. Moving around, sleeping on the streets of London for the last couple years. Lee told me his Dad has just recently died, I could tell he was in pain. He told me he can’t really go back to Maidstone, but of course he’ll find a way for to be there for his Fathers funeral. I feel so thankful I had the chance to sharpen him up and make him feel more confident to see some of his family. It was great to see him in good spirits after the haircut, he said ‘Thanks so much mate. Actually Josh, can you do me another favour? If I give you my mums number, can you send a picture of me to her on your phone? I want her to see this’ #DoSomethingForNothing
In one post Joshua writes how Michelle, who has been homeless since 2012, said to him when they were face to face, “We’re usually invisible out here, but today I feel like people can see me.” Throughout his portfolio of pictures on Instagram, Joshua repeatedly emphasizes how time is the most precious gift we have, and asks others to offer it up to make someone else’s day better.
This is the lovely Michelle. She has been homeless for the last four years now. Back in 2012 she lost her husband and told me that things spiralled out of control for her when this happened. Emotionally torn, she turned to drugs, drink and anything to ease that pain. She was really open and honest with me, saying that drugs have always played a role in her life but after this event she lost control of when she used. I could tell she is still trying to pick up the pieces and to move on with her life but she’s struggling. It was lovely to see the change in confidence during Michelle’s haircut, with each snip of the scissors she was more talkative and let her personality shine. When I was cutting her fringe, face to face she said “We’re usually invisible out here, but today I feel like people can see me” We parted with big smiles after spending an hour getting to know each other. Your time is the most precious gift. #DoSomethingForNothing A photo posted by Joshua Coombes (@joshuacoombes) on
In another sad tale, he cuts the hair of Stephanie and Jon – a couple who were stationed in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan but forced to leave after she injured her leg. Waiting to be rehoused and struggling to find work, the pair await the birth of their baby as they sleep out in the cold.
“A haircut to a lady in my situation is such an important thing, it will help me maintain and feel better about myself,” said Stephanie.
He uses the hashtag #DoSomethingForNothing in an effort to inspire more selfless acts from his followers. So stop thinking you’re too busy or have no money and remember that sometimes the only valuable thing you have to offer people is your time.
In the words of Joshua, “Your journey in compassion is just around the corner.”
This is Aaron, 26. Aaron saw that I was giving out haircuts on the street so he pitched up with us whilst I finished with another client. Aaron grew up in Devon. He has been homeless on and off in Exeter for a few years now, sleeping rough previously but has now managed to acquire a tent so he has some form of shelter at night. I asked Aaron if he has any family here – ‘Yeah not far away, but they don’t really know too much about my situation.’ There’s a few people I’ve met that, for whatever reason, don’t lean on family during this period of their life. There’s a multitude of reasons that could contribute to why this might be, but it always makes me sad. I try and talk as deeply as I can to the people I meet but sometimes these feelings, understandably, can be locked up deep inside them. With experience, I know when and when not to ask. You could draw the conclusion that family relationships have broken down due to one abusing them and thinking of themselves. Or perhaps the person you’re talking to could have been on the recieving end of abuse. Either way, it doesn’t matter, judgement has no place when practising compassion. Aaron talked of business ideas he has for the future and is confident he’ll find work again soon. #DoSomethingForNothing ✂️
When asked if she wanted her haircut Shamrock was more than happy – “What a luxury! I haven’t had it cut for so long” She tries to stay positive and see the best in situations but said – “When you get people who are just downright nasty it’s hard, you get some people who shout and tell you that you’d be better of just being dead and to get a job, it’s time like that which you hate being out here, sometimes a smile makes all the difference” During her haircut we learnt that she has now met somebody new, and she’s very happy. He’s 6 foot 2 and Dreamy!”She told us the story of last Christmas which she described as the best she had had for years. “My partners family invited us in off the streets for Christmas, we had a proper Chirstmas dinner and I even got a couple of presents, it was our first Christmas together. We have been together for 13 months now and having a relationship out here is hard, it’s tough, each day there are things which happen, sometimes really bad things which make it hard to be happy with each other but we try our best”. ?@ireneconesa #DoSomethingForNothing #WWIM13London A photo posted by Joshua Coombes (@joshuacoombes) on