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Homeless Line Up For Haircuts—On The Green

by Allan Appel | Aug 1, 2013 2:05 pm

(6) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Hometown Heroes, Social Services

Allan Appel Photo Mark McGilton could use a haircut—now that he’s ready to get on his feet after a heroin and crack habit left him homeless.

He and a dozen other homeless New Haveners got that haircut Wednesday afternoon as an innovative and, pun intended, cutting-edge new not-for-profit, J-HOP, laid down pale pink linen, brought in barber chairs and volunteer cosmetologists, and turned a portion of the Green into a salon for a day.

Shortly after noon, as the linen was laid out, the line-up of customers began under a shady tree between Center Church and Trinity Church. Many of those in line already knew Jesse Hardy, the energetic “J” in J-HOP, which stands for “Jesse’s Homeless Outreach Programs.” His not-for-profit provides what in effect are pop-up services on the Green.

Hardy (pictured), who also organized a recent reunion picnic of old Elm Haven tenants, has both the permit and the blessing of the city for his activities.

They have included 17 free-food markets, a flea market for the homeless, as well as meals on the Green when local soup kitchens go on break. He began the work a year ago in collaboration with Marcey Jones, a consultant who helped him focus on the particular labors of love Hardy wanted to perform, and then to get volunteers and donations.

Hardy has enlisted the support of churches around town, including Church on the Rock and Varick A.M.E. Zion He finds volunteers through a facebook page.

That’s how Wednesday’s volunteer barbers heard the call—volunteers like Omar Sangster, a cosmetology student, and his instructor Karaine Holness from Hair’s Kay Academy of Cosmetology on Fitch Street.

When he began work on his first client, Dumas instructed Sangster, “Take the hair down, and leave the beard.”

Halfway through he decided that the beard should go as well. Dumas, 52, said he has been homeless for nine months, although he did get a haircut as recently as last month in Bridgeport.

He said what precipitated the homelessness was a sojourn with a relative whose apartment is subsidized through the federal Section 8 program. When the managers found out he had a felony on his record, he had to leave, he said. He has had trouble since then finding a new place.

Dumas was moved by the literally hands-on quality of the barbering gesture. “It’s beautiful, this people coming down here to the Green,” he said. “A lot of people who are homeless shy away when people want to give.”

Not Wednesday afternoon.

Hardy said he and his colleagues, like J-HOP’s vice-president for marketing, Leonard Dobbs, want not just to feed and shave people, but help change the system as well.

“There are 700 homeless in the city [every night] and only 300 available beds” in homeless shelters, and that number may be going down, said Dobbs.

Yet the public and private markets have enough available apartments to house the 700, if there is the political will, Dobbs added.

He and Hardy plan a petition drive to make this point for all the mayoral candidates. They also want to reinvigorate the Homeless Advisory Commission, which has vacant seats.

But first the haircuts. As the line for buzz cuts and close shaves with an edge lengthened—several women lined up as well—a green pick up truck pulled up, with contributed barber seats.

The customers were asked to unload the barber chairs. The sooner they did, the sooner they could be shorn.

As he sat down in Sangster’s chair, McGilton gave his thumbs-up to the outdoor barbering. As Sangster waited for instructions, McGlinton said, “Make it a military cut.”

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posted by: Threefifths on August 1, 2013  2:43pm

The taxpayers should pay for this like they do from the politicians.

Shave and a haircut cost taxpayers $5.1 mil since 1997

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 1, 2013  3:22pm

Seems like a great service. 

Apparently, some guy has been doing this in Hartford for years.

posted by: State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield on August 1, 2013  4:04pm

If anyone is interested (and has a Facebook account) there are many more pictures to see from the event:

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on August 1, 2013  5:05pm

Does anyone have information on how to donate to Mr. Hardy’s organization? Kudos to him and all of the beauty professionals who donated their service. To some it may just be a haircut. But it seems that for the men and women on the green yesterday it was about affirming their dignity

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 1, 2013  5:32pm

This is a great service.  I’m glad to see Rep. Holder-Winfield encouraging this event.  I do wonder about the political will of the next mayor to actually make more beds available and whether its wise.  And more to the point, what happens in the winter months if there are only 300 beds?  There should be some stop-gap to help the homeless but as we’ve seen, I’m not certain that public or private venture could solve it. 

I imagine it costs significant money to house the homeless each night.  Significantly more to the state than traditional section 8 (due to bed cleaning fees, room cleaning, etc.).  So, is there a good solution to this problem?

posted by: State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield on August 2, 2013  4:55am

Send me an email and I will get you Jesse’s number.
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