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Housing

These before and after photos show the power of a haircut for people experiencing homelessness

Haircuts4Homeless has put together a new book collecting photos of some of the 40,000 free haircuts the charity has given to people without a stable home.

These striking before-and-after portrait photos show the radical transformation a free haircut can offer people who experience homelessness.

Charity Haircuts4Homeless has offered up 40,000 cuts during the charity’s lifetime and has spent more than two years gathering stories and photos of the people they support.

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The project, spearheaded by fashion and beauty photographer Jack Eames and session stylist Leigh Keates, has now been collected in a new coffee-table book called ’Hear Me, See Me’, which is available to pre-order.

Haircuts4Homelesss’ Mary Sims-Howlett told The Big Issue the striking black and white photos were about showing the individual behind the snips.

homelessness photos
These before and after photos are of a guest Haircuts4Homeless met in the north of England. According to photographer Jack Eames, she had been attacked by a group of teenagers with a scaffold pole while busking and they smashed her guitar. Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless
Stewart Roberts, the founder of Haircuts4Homeless, embracing Sonya, one of the managers at a drop in session the charity regularly visits. Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless

“It’s about trying to humanise the face of homelessness,” said Sims-Howlett.

“It’s just about reminding people that these are human beings. I think it’s quite often that people write them off as homeless people, but they’re just people affected by homelessness at the end of the day.”

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Veteran hairdresser Stewart Roberts started Haircuts4Homeless to offer up free cuts after his own addiction battle and set out to offer free cuts and create a whole community of skilled hairdresser volunteers to do the same. The idea has since caught on while the charity has attracted high-profile support from the likes of Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey.

The charity has now supported 68 projects across the UK and wanted to show the stigmas and stereotypes many of their clients encounter as well as “thought-provoking imagery and words” that showcase the importance of a haircut, something most people take for granted.

homelessness photos
Photographer Jack Eames told The Big Issue the photos show “the difference a haircut makes to our guests in the change in their demeanour. It is not just about the haircut, it is also the time the volunteers spend with our guests, and the care, kindness and attention that comes with the sessions.” Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless
homelessness photos
The Haircuts4Homeless sessions created a safe community space which allowed people to let their guard down, share their story and have a laugh. Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless

“It’s not necessarily work that is going to solve homelessness,” said Sims-Howlett. “But I think the big thing is the touch, the tactile nature of it and the intimacy of it. Those are important things that people affected by homelessness miss out on.

“It’s not just about them showing up and him cutting their hair. It’s about having that moment of intimacy and conversations as well.”

Roberts added: “This is not just a book, this is not just a haircut, this is a community. A community that creates a space for wellbeing and acceptance and – even if it is temporary – it allows our guests some respite and an opportunity to escape their difficult circumstances.”

homelessness photos
The intimate nature of the haircut sessions gave this man from the East Midlands a rare chance to open up and speak about his life. Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless
The Haircuts4Homeless team visit a wide range of places across the UK, including drop in centres, temporary housing shelters, prison outreach programmes and women’s refuges. Eames told The Big Issue: “The guest from the East Midlands in these images had had a particularly bad few months but with the nature of the session he felt comfortable opening up, talking and having a cup of tea with us during his haircut.” Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless
homelessness photos
Image: Jack Eames/Haircuts4Homeless

The charity has crowdfunded more than £20,000 to print a run of the 120-page books with pre-orders available now ahead of Christmas from its website.

All proceeds from the book will go towards helping Haircuts4Homeless continue to offer haircuts for people around the country.

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