“Giving a haircut places value on the person who gets the haircut”
~ Yonny, Greenlight: Hair4Homeless
A pair of scissors. One hairdresser. One homeless man. This is how it started one day in May 2016. Yonny had been inspired by a video he had seen of a hairdresser in New York City, giving free haircuts to people sleeping rough. He had decided that this is something he could do as well: he could use what God had put in his hands – the skill to cut people’s hair. The first opportunity presented itself one day two years ago outside Carphone Warehouse at Tottenham Court Road.
Since that day, Yonny and friends have joined Greenlight and now serve on the initiative Greenlight: Hair4Homeless, also known as Greenlight Hairdressing. The team of hairdressers go out with the medical van weekly to five different locations in and outside London, and can do up to 30 haircuts in one night.
The heart behind what they do is to value the homeless person, who can often be overlooked and avoided in the crowded streets of our cities. Yonny emphasises that sometimes the Greenlight team might be the first and only people to offer a conversation. To receive a haircut does something to a person – it adds value to him or her, and for a moment that person can raise their head. The volunteers will speak words of encouragement, build relationships and do the journey with them – if they want.
Everyone has a story, and a next step. The Greenlight team will listen to their story and spend time with them, as well as giving them a haircut and medical help if that is needed. The aim is to love on people, meet the medical need, cut their hair, listen to their story, help them walk through an addiction, help them find a job or help get them into accommodation, reunite with a family or just encourage them to take their next step. Greenlights serves to meet people where they are at and help them move forward with their lives.
A night out with the Greenlight hairdressers often looks like two hairdressers and one care and connect volunteer, who also takes photos for social media. They go to an area or shelter with the van to offer haircuts, while the medical team offers medical advice and help. They also have security volunteers to be a calm presence and help out such as cleaning up hair or making sure health and safety regulations are followed.
The teams work together, and they have become like a family, Yonny says. In winter they often visit shelters, and in summer they go with the van to different locations across London and walk around the areas to find people interested in haircuts. The word spreads about the Greenlight team, and often they see that people they have spoken to before comes back, and they bring their friends.
The team is looking for more volunteers, for instance hairdressers, people to help out with social media and security. So if you want to join or know more, go to Greenlightmedic.org, and choose Greenlight Hairdressing. If you want to keep up to date with the Hair4Homeless initiatives, you can do so on Instagram: Greenlight_hair4homeless and #hair4homeless.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”
~ Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
So what is in your hand today?