Walking through the streets of London on his off-hours, hair stylist Joshua Coombes keeps his scissors and the rest of his hairdressing kit in his backpack. When he comes across a homeless person in need of a haircut or a shave, he offers it for free.
Over the last five years, the number of homeless people sleeping on London streets has doubled. Coombes wanted to do something, and realized he could use his skills.
“I never connected with the statistics I heard on the news, and it was very easy to feel that the magnitude of the problem was far too big to do anything about it,” Coombes tells Co.Exist. “It all changed with a realization–just because I can’t solve the problem overnight, it doesn’t mean I can’t make a positive impact in my own way.”
With a photographer friend, Matt Spracklen, he started posting before-and-after photos on Instagram with the hashtag #dosomethingfornothing, along with stories about each person he met. After one recent haircut, a homeless man looked in the mirror and said that he had felt too ashamed to see his mom in years, but that he now felt like he could visit her.
“By telling the stories of the men and women I meet, it humanizes the issue for others–breaking down some of the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding people living on the street,” Coombes says. “To be honest, the haircut is secondary to me having that human connection with someone, which is something we are all capable of.”
Coombes is now visiting New York to do the same thing, on a trip sponsored by the mattress company Leesa (which also has a related social impact program, donating a mattress to a homeless shelter for every 10 mattresses it sells). He aims to inspire other people to donate their time.
“If everyone takes on this ethos of just using a small amount of your time each week to give back, we could really change things and harness social media for good,” he says.
[Photos: via Joshua Coombes]