SAN ANTONIO - – A haircut seems so simple, but for those experiencing homelessness, a physical makeover can make big goals become reality.
Two teenagers realized that and helped turn Haven for Hope’s Hair Care Center into a beautiful space, with dignity in mind.
On a Wednesday afternoon, Jason Garrett took a seat in a comfy leather salon chair.
Tenured barber James Brown prepared to showcase his skills.
To an onlooker, it could have been any typical day at an upscale barber shop.
In reality, it was anything but ordinary.
The conversation, the purpose, and the location are all connected by one thing -- homelessness.
“I started falling behind on bills. I lost my vehicle, so I was actually living out of my vehicle for the two years I’ve been here in San Antonio,” Garrett said.
Garrett lives at the Haven for Hope shelter in downtown San Antonio, where the hair care center just got a huge makeover.
“I am now working as a parking enforcement officer at the airport due to a haircut I received here,” he said.
That’s right -- he landed a great job, took a major life step, and credits a haircut.
“A good clean cut will change a person’s perspective and their feeling about themselves,” Garrett said.
“You go to the business world, you look presentable, a haircut. So tie, shoes makes the biggest difference in the world,” Brown said.
Brown knows that because he lived at Haven for Hope 12 years ago when the shelter first opened.
“The average person is only two or three paychecks away from being homeless. So many things can happen to a person that you can’t judge,” he said.
Six years ago, Brown renewed his license as a professional barber and began giving back, running the hair care center for free.
Back then, the center was just a clinical-looking white room with some chairs and mirrors.
Then about 10 months ago came Jack and Emma Heeney, Clark High School teenagers and dedicated Boy and Girl Scouts.
During a visit to Haven for Hope, Jack noticed the hair care center.
“I saw it wasn’t in the best condition and it could really make an impact on the people who lived here,” Jack said.
He decided to make it his Eagle Scout project, and it quickly turned into a family affair.
Emma jumped in, as a part of her Gold Award Project.
“He did all the remodeling. I had a photographer come out and we got some awesome artwork and we got all the supplies in here to get it going,” Emma said.
Almost everything in the center is new, including the floors, wall colors, art, cabinets with supplies, leather salon chairs, and a closet full of products.
Brown said the beautiful salon will pull in more clients, but he can’t serve them all by himself.
He hopes the updates will inspire other barbers to come volunteer with him.
“Get me some recruits. We can get in here and we can really help the people,” he said.
“It’s kind of surreal thinking that the two of us made such a big impact on this community,” Emma said.
The proof of that impact was in the reveal.
Garrett fell silent for a moment as he observed the new man in the mirror.
He looked up and said, “Makes the person feel more normal.”
Normal, essentially meaning worthy, dignified, and accepted by a community that Garrett now knows, truly cares about him and his future.