“It was a gift for sure” said Simon who is homeless and supported by the Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) in Portsmouth.
Simon was talking about his appreciation for the free January haircut he and other residents of an RSSS hostel received. Shannon Droxford and Chris Jupp, local Portsmouth barbers, got together after realising they shared an interest in giving haircuts to the homeless and spent the day at the hostel, pampering the residents.
In conversation after the event, both Simon and fellow hostel resident Philip talked about what this act of kindness meant to them. They had both experienced recent periods of rough sleeping before being given a place at the hostel. Simon said, “I cannot remember the last time that I had my hair professionally cut” and went on to say “She even plucked my eyebrows and my ears which made me feel great”.
Improving Health and Wellbeing
People who have experienced homelessness are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health than the general population demonstrating a major health inequality. Lucy Potts, SSJ’s Senior Community Psychosocial Worker, highlighted the importance of this kind of event to improving the health and wellbeing of those accessing the service, “I feel it is so important to have this opportunity to make our service users feel human. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding those who have been homeless is all too apparent presenting barriers to doing things that many would take for granted. Strong feelings of anxiety and worry could be enough to stop someone accessing general self-care facilities, like a barber.”
Lucy went on to say that she saw a discernible change in behaviour during the day and said that “they came out of the room more confident, happy and looking nice and fresh”, she said the atmosphere was “excitable and hectic with everyone in and out, there was music and everyone was happy and upbeat, overall it was just so lovely and wholesome!”.
“A Positive Yet Also Humbling Experience”
Chris, one of the barbers giving his time on the day said “It was a very positive yet also humbling experience. We got to connect with some fascinating people, who though incredibly grateful, seemed unexpectedly surprised that someone would do this for them. On reflection, I genuinely feel I got a lot more out of the day than anyone on the receiving end of my scissors”.
The intimate experience of having a haircut naturally opens up a conversation between barber and client and this kind of interaction can build self-esteem and self-efficacy, so important to recovery from homelessness. Many conversations were had during the day, Phillip said “They [the barbers] were so friendly, I spoke about my family and she [Shannon] seemed shocked I had 12 grandchildren”. Simon said he and Shannon “spoke about my experiences in Nepal and my tattoos and she had lots of tattoos herself”.
Thank you to Shannon and Chris for giving up their time to do something that meant so much to the residents and thank you to all those who have given time in this way in the past. Sue, a barber in Southampton for example is currently giving haircuts at one of our Southampton hostels once a month, thank you Sue!
The RSSS is run by The Society of St James on behalf of Portsmouth City Council.
How Can You Help?
If you are a beauty professional and would like to help people across Portsmouth, Southampton or Aldershot recover from homelessness by offering a day of pampering then please get in touch here.
Alternatively, help us to fund a range of support by donating to the charity here.