Veteran hairdresser Stewart Roberts launched the charity Haircuts4Homeless to build a community of skilled hairdresser volunteers, who give their time free of charge to provide haircuts for homeless people.
We wanted to chat with Stewart about his work with our Affiliate Haircuts4Homeless, the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and how you can help support the charity.
1 – Haircuts4Homeless is such an amazing charity. Would you be able to explain a little more about the inspiration behind Haircuts4Homeless and what the charity does?
I started by accident in November 2014. I was volunteering at a Salvation Army in Essex, talking to people about addictions as I am 14years sober myself, and saw the homeless guys coming in for something to eat. I had recently seen a guy on Facebook called Mark Bustos doing makeovers on homeless people on the street so thought I’ll bring my scissors to the next session and give some haircuts.
Little did I know it would change my life.
I put some pictures on Facebook and soon some hairdressers said they would like to help and some other centres said they would like us to come and five years later we have 68 projects across the UK & Ireland, 600 volunteers and have given over 40, haircuts. I soon realised that it was much more than a haircut that we were giving. It’s about respect, connection, touch and communication.
There is something special about any profession that lays hands on people. Human touch instantly breaks down barriers, particularly in these disconnected times. We are talking about people who frequently say they feel invisible and lonely so for someone to touch them and have a conversation means the world and is a really beautiful thing to witness.
2 – The pandemic has completely changed the process of getting a haircut, with government guidance and procedures. How has Haircuts4Homeless been able to adapt to these new regulations to ensure staff and client safety?
With the nature of what we do we have to take even more precautions when we are working with the homeless. I have to now attend each re-opening project personally to ensure everything is as it should be. We provide full PPE and everything needed to keep everyone safe guests and volunteers alike. It means a slower progression but safety is paramount.
The British Beauty Council have been an amazing support and given us much needed advice and clarification on procedures.
3 – Haircuts4Homeless and Beauty Papers recently partnered up for a series of beautiful portraits and a film, capturing the power of the charity’s work. How did the collaboration come about?
CEO of Beauty Papers, Maxine Leonard contacted me saying that she loved what we do and would like to cover our work in the Beauty Papers magazine. Maxine and Photographer Simon Emmett came to a session at the Whitechapel Mission and captured some amazing images. They were so taken with the images that they decided to develop it into a short film which has now been put forward to film festivals.
4 – Another element of the work you do with Haircuts4Homeless is the charity’s podcast, Hear Me, See Me. You’ve had some incredible guests on the podcast, do you have a favourite episode?
After being a guest on a few podcasts to talk about Haircuts4Homeless, it occurred to me that I have met so many wonderful people in my time with the charity that I should start my own, primarily to highlight some of the work of the unsung heroes who I meet.
It’s now out and called “Hear Me, See Me.” Podcast and is available through Acast and on Spotify and iTunes.
I have been fortunate enough to have had some amazing guests including Game of Thrones star, Lena Headey and also some amazing unsung heroes who work in the homeless centres. During lockdown I did a week of podcasts featuring some amazing women who have survived domestic violence and abuse who are an inspiration. One of my favourite episodes was with Brother Kevin who has give his life helping the homeless of Dublin and is an absolute inspiration.
5 – Sadly, with the current financial crisis, homelessness is due to rise. How can we all make more of a valuable impact on the lives of those who are homeless?
The way we can make more of a valuable impact on the lives of the homeless is recognise that they are human beings and could so easily be us in different circumstances. Unfortunately one of the effects of the pandemic will be a severe economic downturn which will most likely result in job losses and in some cases more people becoming homeless. The homeless centres we work with need everyone’s help more than ever along with charities like ours who support them.
6 – What are the steps that someone needs to take if they are interested in supporting Haircuts4Homeless?
There are three things people can do if they want to support us at Haircuts4Homeless Relate, Participate and Donate.
Firstly they can relate by liking and sharing our social media. Secondly they can participate by volunteering with us by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly they can donate using the link on our website www.haircuts4homeless.com