Joshua Coombes, a 28-year-old hairstylist from London, decided he wanted to give back to his community. So he packed up his equipment and started roaming the streets of London giving free haircuts to the homeless.
He told Epoch Times he started his charitable mission about a year ago, and that it was “born from a desire to give back and just to feel a bit more human.” That’s how #DoSomethingForNothing came about, which essentially means, in his words, “Anybody can do something for nothing in their own way.”
“Giving up a bit of your time will always be appreciated, whatever you do,” Coombes said, referring to the #DoSomethingForNothing movement, the goal of which is to inspire others to do random act of kindness for other people.
Coombes, who discovered his love for hairdressing five years ago, says every day after work, he’d see people sleeping “rough in the city.”
“Somehow giving some pocket change didn’t feel like it accomplished all that much anymore,” he said. “Analyzing this, I think I was just looking for a way to do something more personal, something to try and make a difference and learn more about someone’s life.”
Coombes said that at first, many homeless were a bit reluctant to take up his offer, often asking him, “What’s the catch?”
“I can understand this reaction,” he says. “But when they realize that it’s genuine, people can really open up.” It goes from an “uneasy initial encounter, to a warm embrace at the end,” he said.
Coombes cuts hair for anyone, from homeless teens to seniors, men or women. He doesn’t have a set time that he goes out or any specific plans.
“It’s about doing what you can, when you can. There are days off when I’ve planned to go out for a few hours and that can turn into a whole day and go on into the evening,” he said, adding that some days it doesn’t always go as smoothly; there are some hurdles along the way from authorities.
Sometimes police tell him he can’t do it in a particular location, so he’ll move down the road to where it is allowed. “They do enjoy their invisible lines. I stay civil though and play ball because it’s about connecting with my client,” said Coombes.
However, some authorities, he says, can be quite understanding. They love the idea of giving free haircuts to the homeless and want to know more, said Coombes.
When asked what kind of hairstyle he gives them he says:
“Some guys want a full re-style. Women I see might just want a trim. I ask people what they’re after but usually they just leave it up to me saying: ‘Make me look beautiful!’ That’s my favorite request. I can just create a style that suits their face and bone structure. Showing somebody their new look in the mirror is so rewarding for me.”
“I know a haircut might not change their world, but it could change their thought process to how they value themselves in society. You never know when that might encourage a new direction in life.”
Joshua not only gives free haircuts to the homeless in London, he takes it wherever he goes.
“I’ve cut hair on the streets of different cities in the U.K., and when I’ve been abroad. At the beginning of this year, I headed out to Paris to take Do Something For Nothing to the streets there and spread the love. I was also lucky enough to spend time in Australia recently, where I hit the streets of Sydney and Melbourne.”
All he needs is his equipment, which he always keeps in a knapsack so he can give a haircut any time in any place.
“When I see somebody I’ll usually set up where they are, grabbing anything I can nearby for them to sit on to make it a more comfortable experience,” he said.
And it’s a comfortable and a genuine experience for him too. He recalls an unforgettable moment in Paris with a homeless man:
I met a man called Kareem who was looking for his son after traveling from his home country, Senegal, six months prior. He hadn’t seen his son for years after losing contact completely. He quickly ran out of money in the city and had been sleeping on the streets while he was attempting to track down where his boy was working and staying. The day I cut his hair, it just so happened that he had found his son and had arranged to meet with him the next day. It was a perfect time to give him a freshen up and make him feel more respectable. Sometimes fate plays an amazing role in this. When he looked in the mirror at the end, he smiled at me with tears in his eyes. I’m not afraid to say I cried also. It’s a moment I won’t forget.
What is the end goal for all of this?
It is quite simple: “To create social change in the way in which we connect with one another each day and hopefully inspire others to do the same,” Coombes says.
And that’s what keeps him driven.
“I feel so lucky to be able to do something I enjoy, to express myself and help somebody out, all at the same time.”