By Luke Kenton
This incredible organization of volunteers dedicate their time to boost the spirits of the homeless, providing a safe environment and free pampering sessions.
Now celebrating 12 years sober, reformed addict Stewart Roberts, 56, knows all too well the plight facing those riddled with addictions, substance abuse and homelessness.
So, in November 2014, Stewart set out to make a difference.
Walking down to his local Salvation Army, in Romford, Essex, bearing only a pair of scissors, the hairdresser of 40 years offered a trim to those waiting in line for a hot meal.
After an incredibly successful first session, other shelters soon heard of the salon owner’s selfless efforts and the demand for Stewart’s services soared, giving birth to Haircuts4Homeless.
Now, 45 UK locations later and with 300 volunteers behind him, Stewart’s ‘Haircuts4Homeless’ has issued over 35,000 free haircuts to rough sleepers all over the country, and Stuart has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Insisting the service amounts to ‘more than just a haircut’, Steward, from Grays, Essex, said: “I started Haircuts4Homeless by accident, really.
“I’m 12 years sober and have been volunteering with alcoholics and drug addicts for the last 10 years.
“After seeing a video of a man in New York giving homeless people haircuts, I decided to take my scissors down to the local Salvation Army.
“It was a great success and I was asked to do the same again at another centre.
“After uploading this one to social media, the response was incredible and I was inundated with requests of people asking to help out.
“Soon we had sessions running in four different centres.”
In 2017, Stewart entered to win a National Lottery grant, where he was successfully awarded with 46,040GBP (65,000USD) to buy equipment for his volunteers and to fund the opening of more locations.
Stewart said: “As I started opening projects across the UK, I was overwhelmed by the extent and magnitude of the problem.
“I was also amazed by the reactions I was getting from guests – sometimes bringing us both to tears.
“It’s more than a haircut; it’s about self-esteem.
“We’re about giving these people respect and homeless people don’t get a lot of that.
“It may be temporary but we change them.
“They might be feeling down when they walk in, but by the end you notice a difference – they go out lifted and feeling good.
“What started as giving out a few free haircuts on my own has now grown into something that has changed my life forever.”