TUCKED away in a lane way, a 22-year-old homeless man told Saad Almashouq he hadn’t had a haircut in a decade.
At 22 he had been homeless for 10 years. The fact that it was 3am in the morning didn’t deter Mr Almashouq who rushed to his car and grabbed his clippers. The 15 minutes that it took to bring back the young man’s dignity and self esteem planted a seed in Mr Almashouq’s mind.
He could cut hair for the homeless and in 15 minutes change their lives.
“I went to the Gravy Spot and got him some food, came back and looked at him and thought ‘you need a haircut’,” Mr Almashouq said.
“He hadn’t had a haircut in 10 years, it was three in the morning but I did it.
“When I saw his reaction, he looked like he had been re-born. It was a really emotional moment for me.”
The humble half Egyptian, half Saudi Arabian international student has a smiley face and gentle manner. His kindness is half his success, says Soup Bus co-ordinator Sharon Murrihy.
After that one haircut Mr Almashouq realised he wanted to give more people haircuts, for free. He had to find out the right way to go about it.
“You can’t tell who is homeless in Ballarat. I didn’t want to go up to a person – because they might not be in need,” Mr Almashouq said.
“In the city you can tell, because they are sitting on the footpath with luggage.”
Mr Almashouq contacted Ms Murrihy and soon he was cutting hair right outside the Soup Bus. There he could meet with the city’s most vulnerable people in a safe and comfortable environment.
“My first session I did eight haircuts, they were happy,” Mr Almashouq said.
“Not only to get their hair cut, but also because I was there to listen.”
Michael Lauwers has been in the position where he hasn’t been able to afford a haircut. Out on the streets, with no bathroom and no clippers, Mr Lauwers felt dirty.
“You feel good if you can go there and have a haircut. If you’re looking clean, you’re feeling clean,” he said.
Mr Almashouq is looking at extending his program. He now does female haircuts and is in the process of recruiting qualified barbers.
“Haircuts are something we so often take for granted,” Ms Murrihy said.
“But for so many people, a haircut is out of their reach. This gives them their dignity back.”
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