Haircuts transform the homeless



Huffing Boing Boing

The saying goes: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Watching this video reminds me I need to arrange a HUD in which that admonition flashes every time I meet someone.


Shouldn’t this just make us all feel like assholes for caring about how other people’s hair looks?


Why “us all”, instead of only those who judge people based upon hair?


How a person perceives themselves can be drastically altered by something as simple as a haircut. That boost to self confidence, self acceptance, or just feeling plain ol’ good can be a big deal.



I volunteered on a listening hotline. About 50% of the callers were mentally ill. I wish more people had the experience of talking to people who are dealing with these problems, as I know many homeless people are (which gets me angry; I feel we have a responsibility to take better care of who need assistance, and I feel that we could not only have these citizens participate more but be productive and included if we did).

A whole lot of people struggle to take care of themselves in ways that most people find just part of life - to brush their teeth, take care of their hair, their clothing - it’s a lot of work and effort, and for some people, a challenge to get through just those things each day.




Depends how you mean “judge.” If you’re going to look at a hairy guy and assume he’s lazy and dishonest, then that makes no sense. But if you’re going to look at these guys and figure they might be homeless, well that’s a pretty good guess. If you met a guy who still had Flock of Seagulls hair, that would tell you something very interesting about him. I don’t think any of us would look at him and think, “I wonder if he’s a corporate CEO? Or maybe a firefighter?”

Around here I’ve noticed two “beauty academies,” and I’ll bet there are a few more. They give very cheap haircuts, in exchange for a newbie is learning on your head. Why not bring some homeless folks there?


So if the homeless person feels better because of a haircut, thereby judging themselves (in other words: having positive self esteem), you’re saying the homeless person should feel like an asshole.


On the left, they look like Game Of Thrones extras.

On the right, they look like cops.


Homeliness is a positive reinforcement spiral as much as extreme wealth is. People fear someone who might possibly ask for help and thus cut off friends and family who slip too far. The process is demeaning and demoralizing to the victim; when combined with malnutrition, lack of legal sleep options, and probably some street antidepressant self medication to take the edge off are a perfect recipe for mental illness and PTSD in even the most sane person.
Assisting the homeless to pass, using the terminology of other oppressed minorities, lets these people bypass the automatic nearly universal and for some reason widely accepted class discrimination.
The well off and comfortable believe the lie that their hard work is 100% responsible for their comfort, the homeless are obviously bad, their discomfort is prima facia evidence of their laziness and societal worthlessness.


Wild. Maybe I should start shaving more often.


This Inspiring NYC Stylist Spends Every Sunday Giving Haircuts To The Homeless


I’ve dealt a lot with homeless folks, and I’d say the problem is complicated. Often there are compounding issues of depression or more serious mental illness, alcoholism or substance abuse, as well as financial problems and employability issues. Solving the problem is not as simple as giving someone a haircut, a place to live or even access to mental health care since often people who are in this position refuse care or help. And then it becomes an issue of autonomy - we can’t force people in to care, or institutionalize them if they are not a danger to themselves or others. That’s not to say that society shouldn’t make every effort to provide an “on ramp” for people when they can make a choice to address their problems, but often it has to start with a choice and a commitment by the person to seek help.


Sadly a haircut and a new suit was not enough…

Welcome to modern America, where we want band-aids instead of doing the hard work of fixing things. (And I know… image is important, but so are drug treatment programs.)


And apparently, we want those “homeless bums” to suffer the “consequences of their poor choices”, even when it’s demonstrably cheaper to provide them with supportive housing.

Note: In the scare quotes above, I am parroting/parodying the common thinking, not expressing my own opinion.


Yes, for sure - complicated. I just wish that we tried a little harder as a society.


Sure, assuming that their choices are in the service of the same goals as others. What if their goals are to avoid employment and housing - are they then still “poor choices”?

Most of the problems seem to originate from bureaucratic processes which require people to have a fixed address. And it’s not a coincidence, they do this deliberately. So when people stipulate that you need an address to vote, start a bank account, or incorporate - it’s a recipe for instant marginality. So an entire way of life is subtly made a non-choice. I’d rather help people to live effectively, with or without homes, than “help” people by taking further actions to make rootless living untenable.


Well, for those who want to be homeless, that is in fact their choice. I suspect most people do not want to live in a ratty sleeping bag under a bridge, and the issue is mental illness and substance abuse. The Happy Homeless are more stories libertarians and conservatives (and probably a few liberals) tell themselves so they can sleep at night.

Bureaucracy is an issue, but not in the way you think. We treat the poor like second citizens. Getting treatment can be a maze of what facility can accept them and who will pay. Check out Chris Arnade stuff. He was a Wall Street broker who decided to shuck it all and tell the stories from a south Bronx neighborhood. His telling of driving from facility to facility trying to find treatment for an addict might even make you teary eye.