NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nearly two years ago, Brennon Jones told his wife Tasha, "I want to go cut hair for the homeless." The next day, Jones hit the streets of Philadelphia with scissors and sprays in tow, dolling out styles and trims to the city's homeless population.
It was supposed to be a one time thing, but a video of Jones' philanthropic barbering went viral, kicking off the Haircuts4Homeless initiative.
Brennon and Tasha have been on tour ever since.
Most recently, they could be found in New Orleans underneath the overpass at Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue giving haircuts to homeless men and women. The homeless population living in that area warmly accepted the invitation to be professionally styled and pampered.
Haircuts 4 Homeless, which is sponsored by Maestro's Classic barbershop out of Bristol, Pennsylvania, set up three stations and served about 40 homeless men and women throughout the day.
Some requested just a trim, while others asked for the removal of inches-long beards or the styling of elaborate braids. The hair stylists and barbers delivered for six hours as cars sped by and sirens wailed from the nearby University Medical Center. By that afternoon, they not only had given dozens of fresh haircuts, but also bags filled with toiletries, socks and underwear.
Anthony Spadafora, the branch architect for Maestro's Classic, noticed one man with a sign asking for work. He offered him a gig sweeping up hair and the man happily accepted.
At one point, Justin LeBlanc, a New Orleans native, stopped by to drop off cases of water for the stylists and their customers under the overpass.
Haircuts4Homeless heads to Trenton, New Jersey, next. Jones said the goal is to show the homeless that people still care about them. It is an added bonus if the haircuts help get the men and women back on their feet.
"My very first haircut, his name was Braden. I cut his hair on 15th & Walnut (streets). A few days later, I went to check up on him and he wasn't there. I was hoping nothing bad happened to him. When we did catch up weeks later, he got offered a full-time job," Jones previously told CBS Philly.
At least 60 homeless men and women died in New Orleans last year, most of them on the streets. The figure was a 13-percent jump from 53 homeless people who died in 2016, according to a new count that catalogued last year's deaths in abandoned homes and cars, under elevated highways and in motels, shelters and hospitals.
A new, low-barrier, 100-bed homeless shelter opened in 2017 on the second-floor of the old Veterans Administration hospital downtown on Gravier Street.
Although generally viewed as a positive a step, some worry the shelter's success will be limited because it plans to open without accessible substance abuse and mental health services at the same location — a one-stop-shop approach that has succeeded in San Antonio and Houston. Without those services, some think New Orleans' new shelter could become just a place to sweep homeless men and women out of the view of tourists and locals.
NOLA.com ' Times-Picayune's Katharine Sayre and Richard Webster contributed to this story.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com
Posted on Tue, August 21, 2018
by By HANNA KRUEGER, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune