How these hairdressers are making a difference for the homeless

Haircuts 4 Homeless is a national charity, but the Peterborough project was started in July 2019 in partnership with Outside Links, the centre which provides support services to homeless people and men and women who leave HMP Peterborough. From the first session at the end of July, a rotating team of 10 volunteers – including mobile hairdressers, salon owners and tutors at the college – gathered a regular client base, usually seeing around 25 people every month.

When lockdown was enforced in March, however, the sessions were forced to cease and team leader Sharron Walker told Peterborough Matters she found it “frustrating, feeling useless because we couldn’t do anything to help”.

The final session before lockdown was March 2 – and the first session back was around six months later, on September 15. It took time for the charity to ensure that adequate PPE was provided for its volunteers, and the Outside Links Centre needed to reopen properly.

Currently, due to social distancing regulations, only two hairdressers are allowed per session. Sharron, plus whichever volunteer can join her, are hoping that they can bring some kind of normal into the lives of their clients.

Sharron said: “We had plenty of regulars before lockdown, so we’re hoping to see them again. We try to bring as much of a salon experience as possible for those who come to see us.

“There are washing facilities and we’ll make sure our clients get a cup of tea and as much help and kindness as we can. We’ve had two or three guys come in and get their hair cut just before job interviews and it’s good to get them nice and smart. It really is amazing, getting to make a difference for people.”

Bridget Peeroo, senior prison custody officer at Outside Links, said of the Haircuts4Homeless service: “Homeless people face a huge number of challenges and a haircut can really help to boost their confidence. If they have an appointment to try to arrange housing, employment or meetings with their parole officer, feeling better about how they look can help them to take a more positive approach.”

The team is also hoping to relaunch the Women’s Wednesday sessions soon, where vulnerable women can get their hair cut, and there’s a selection of clothes and shoes so that a new outfit can be chosen.

New hairdressing volunteers are “always needed”, Sharron emphasised, especially as the Peterborough project is hoping that it can get back to the pace it was at before. 

The next Haircuts 4 Homeless session will be on October 5 at the Outside Links Centre. Sharron and her volunteers return on the first Monday of every month.

To get involved, contact sharron.walker@hotmail.com.


Peterborough Matters

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