One of the greatest struggles in overcoming homelessness is keeping hope alive. The disenfranchised often feel invisible, losing the will to work their way out of desperation.
Sadly, anyone who has spent nearly half their life on the street will be inclined to think they are beyond helping.
For Jose Antonio, 55, life on the street was all he knew. He’d become homeless at 30 years old, and after 25 years of rough sleeping in Spain, never expected more out of life.
Unable to secure work, Antonio couldn’t get himself off the street. And because he was unable to get into a home, he was unable to become employed. He felt helpless.
In Majorca, Spain, Jose Antonio had been homeless for the last 25 years because of his battle with depression.
Antonio is well known around his town. His shaggy white hair and bushy beard make him easily identifiable.
But while most knew who he was, few took the time to hear his story.
Antonio worked as an electrician until his battle with depression got the better of him. He lost his job and home, and ended up on the streets.
The last two decades he watched cars in a parking lot to make enough money to get by. But the problems that plagued him all those years ago remained.
In many ways, the issues were worse. When Antonio now looked in the mirror, he didn’t like what he saw.
Antonio no longer wanted to be homeless, but his appearance scared off employers.
With his self-esteem in the gutter, Antonio failed to summon the strength to find encouragement. He didn’t like the way he looked, and feared prospective employers wouldn’t be able to see past his rough exterior.
Then in 2015, a Majorca hair salon called La Salvajería offered to give him a total makeover. There would be no charge, and with the new look, Antonio would have an easier time finding work.
They welcomed Antonio into their salon, giving him time to take one last look in the mirror before closing the shutters on his old life forever.
The entire makeover is captured on a video in Spanish that was posted to La Salvajería’s Facebook page.
The salon cut off Antonio’s curly white locks, trimmed his beard, dyed his hair, and gave him some fashionable clothes.
The transformation is dramatic. When Antonio got a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he hardly recognized himself. Tears came immediately, and Antonio was in total disbelief.
“Nobody is going to recognize me,” he said in the video. “I’m not Jose Antonio anymore! Even if I tell them who I am, they won’t recognize me!”
After his makeover, Jose Antonio walked around his old neighborhood. His friends delighted in the transformation, he drew looks from several women around town, and a barkeep he knows served him a beer without recognizing him.
“Where is your Ferrari?” one of his friends asked him with a smile.
18 months after the makeover, Antonio is no longer living on the street. He says the makeover saved his life.
The formerly homeless man said that he’d lost the will to live. The makeover saved his life.
“With the depression, I’d basically lost interest in life and the way I looked and had health problems I wasn’t dealing with,” he said via Metro.
“The new look has helped me deal with the way I feel inside. It’s had so many practical consequences.”
Antonio now rents a room in an apartment, is actively looking for a new job as an electrician, and hopes to find a girlfriend.