Joshua Coombes

Hairdresser β€’ Musician Founder #DoSomethingForNothing βœ‰οΈ [email protected] πŸ“Œ London, U.K

http://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/06/21/meet-the-globetrotting-hairdresser-who-helps-homeless-people-look-sharp/

  • posts558

This is Samantha, 28 years old, originally from Essex, homeless in London for the last three years. The Samantha most people will see each day is a girl hustling to make her next pound, in the hope to accumulate enough money to buy her next fix. Surviving on any food or drinks kindly brought for her by people passing by. Looking at this on the surface, it's easy to see how a certain opinion could be formed. As I was cutting Samantha's hair she started speaking to me more deeply about her addiction - "I don't know if it was ever fun for me really. I saw hard drugs from an early age at home. I've always been around it. I wish it didn't have a hold on me like this but it has." It's very difficult to go into detail, but Samantha was very honest with me about some abuse she's suffered as child,
telling me these events have always effected her. I could see there was a deep pain here and that heroin is her best attempt to begin to relieve this. Getting to the roots of a story in this way is so important to try and understand the complexities of an issue like drug addiction.
Samantha has a boyfriend she spends most of her time with on the street, they've been together for years now. This relationship has it's complications. They have children of their own that are being looked after by relatives at the moment. It's a really sad situation and Samantha clearly feels that - "I miss my children so much, I need to sort my life out, I know I do. I talk to them on the phone whenever I can but it's never enough." I know there are so many negative elements in this post that it's probably difficult to feel the hope in the situation, but here it is -
I saw a change in Samantha during the time we spent together. It may have been slight, but it was there. She told me how much it meant just having someone outside of her usual circle to speak with and how much it means when people acknowledge her each day and smile. She knows she's made mistakes and that weighs heavily on her, but any judgement on top of this will surely only add to the pain. Your influence can make a difference, it's up to you how you use it. #DoSomethingForNothing

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We all need connection. We all need hope. Never forget how incredible it is to make someone else smile. Samantha's story tomorrow. #DoSomethingForNothing

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I think the most beautiful people are the ones that have been through the toughest situations in life but somehow manage to keep a smile on their face #DoSomethingForNothing ➑️

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This is Charlie, 20 years old. I met Charlie last week on Regent street. I stood and watched for five minutes before I approached him. In a such a busy area, it's easy to see how isolated you could feel sitting out here all day without much in the way of acknowledgment from busy shoppers passing by.
I met Charlie before a few months ago in a different area, I asked him why he chose to sit here - "With all the money around this place I suppose you think it would be a good option, but that can vary.
To be honest, keeping in a good headspace isn't even about how much money you get out here. When someone has time to stop, you remember it."
Charlie has some temporary accommodation to stay in at the moment with other young men of a similar age - "We're all looking for work of some kind, but most people spend their time on the street. I was sleeping rough before this and you learn how to survive." Charlie spoke to me a bit about his mother - "She's always suffered with drug addiction and it got a lot worse a few years ago. It's complicated. We don't see each other any more. If I had somewhere else to turn, I would." Charlie has this magic in his soul, you can feel it when you talk to him and see it in his eyes. There's bags of potential energy there. I asked him what he'd like to do to get a new chapter started in his life - "I've been thinking about working in the food industry, I don't know exactly what to do yet but I'd like to try that."
Since meeting Charlie I've been in conversation some really helpful people
about trying to get him some work and speaking to him on the phone also. #DoSomethingForNothing

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Cutting Darren's hair in Picadilly on Monday. Some of the best times I've had over the last couple years have been right here, on the concrete. #DoSomethingForNothing

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It's hard to put the experience of @thedolectures into words. I'll never forget it. I met so many incredible people and spent hours talking until sunrise. If you want a better insight into the magic of this place, it's right here - #dolectures
It was a real pleasure to share the #DoSomethingForNothing story so far. Huge thank you to everyone for making this what it is and for having me along 😌

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This is Darren, 40 years old.
We met a few hours ago in Picadilly Circus. I was on the tube back home to south London but felt this urge to get off at Picadilly. I'm really glad I did...
Darren was sat outside the tube entrance as soon as I walked up the stairs. We've never met before but we have a mutual friend in Bryan, a Scottish man who is is also homeless in this area of London.
Darren broke into a smile when I asked him if he'd like a haircut. I'm really glad I had the chance to hear his story - "I was born in Peckham, south east London, but went to school and grew up in Croydon. When I hit my twenties I joined the army, serving for seven years. I spent time in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. I saw I a lot and built a really strong relationships with some people. Nobody tells you how hard it is to get back to life afterwards. I moved to Slough when I left the army. I had all sorts of different jobs. I met someone I really cared about and it worked for a while but I was pretty depressed and losing connection with everything. I suffer from bipolar disorder now, but I know how to keep in top of it." Darren had problems with his landlord and after spending a couple of weeks in a mental health unit, he came home to find his notice to leave - "I know I had my problems at the time, but I had no where else to go then. That's when it all started, my first night on the street. First Slough, then Bournemouth, now here. It's been three years. I'm really glad I found Bryan, we look out for each other." -
I spent ages chatting with Darren and I couldn't have been happier, I mean it. So many people paid him compliments on their way through and stopped and spoke with us. Darren is trying to get work but has found it difficult lately, telling me of the problems that not many of us see. As a single homeless person in the U.K, there isn't that many helping hands offered to you from the government. There's a hell of a lot more processing and box ticking involved before someone can just "Get a job" as it were.
Darren passes the time by reading a lot. He's always looking for new books. I'm going to check in on him again soon.
#DoSomethingForNothing

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The whole concept of charity changes completely when you focus on connection. When you reach out with what you love doing, it's gets even better. @dosomethingfornothing #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @josh_greet

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Fixing Jason up with a fresh shave in Shoreditch recently. He's been homeless for over a year in east London. Since taking my clippers and scissors out on to the streets, it's been incredible to connect with so many others who are finding ways to humanise this issue and lend an ear to those feeling unheard in society. I teamed up with @Vice and @Philips to spread the word. Philip's YOUdoYOU initiative features individuals making a positive impact in their communities. It's difficult to solve a problem overnight, but a smile is a good place to start. #vice #philipsbeardtrimmers

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This is Paulo, originally from Lisbon, homeless in Barcelona. I met him on a busy day of #DoSomethingForNothing near the @Arrelsfundacio building in El Raval. Paulo brought a lot of smiles that day. He has pretty much every 90's pop song in his repertoire and sings them at will - what a guy! I was smiling the entire haircut. I asked Paulo about what had happened that led him to the street but he didn't want to talk about it. I found out from others that he's been homeless for a long time already. I'm rounding up the last of my Barcelona trip now and reflecting. When I think back to the different places I've been so far to do this, I remember every person. It hasn't got much to do with what I'm actually giving anymore. In fact, now the haircut only facilitates me trying to connect with the whoever is in front of me at the time and to learn about their life. It's a small act, hopefully one which will brighten up someone's day a bit, but what's going on is something deeper and accessible every day. Giving your time to someone you don't even know may sound like a bad idea in theory, but nobody tells you what you get in return. Its only made me grow.

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If you close doors to enough people in life, you may as well be living in a box. Humans make mistakes, we all know that. Some people's mistakes are more obvious to see that others, but that doesn't mean they're any different than our own.
#DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @lemus.juan

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Massive thanks to the guys at Restart for having me in Kensington recently. Memorable day there with a lot of clients! So many of the homeless community in the area come here to share food, get support from the team and advice to move forward. Community is real and waiting for you want it. Join this movement and #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ™ŒπŸ½

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This is Fernando. He was homeless for 10 years up until recently when @arrelsfunadcio housed him in one of their shared apartments. Fernando used to work different in trades for most his life before becoming homeless. It’s easy to forget that some of the people we see on the street have worked for decades before ending up here. Many of those I meet can look back on a similar position of security as Fernando. One of employment for a long period of time. It’s so often I hear - β€œI could have never imagined living on the street.” When Fernando’s marriage broke down, this separation hit him hard. This eventually led him to the street.
It was real fun spending time with Fernando, his smile is contagious and you can tell how much his character means to the group was with. This echoed for my whole experience working with @arrelsfundacio I felt a real connection between everyone. There was a true sense of community. #DoSomethingForNothing

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It's only recently that I've found myself completely lost in the day. I mean that in the most positive sense. To be truly open to the people that come into my life. It's not easy but when managed, something pretty cool happens. Time no longer dictates. Worries diminish. Both feet are firmly in the present. My headspace is no longer taken up by the things I should have done yesterday, or where I'm supposed to be tomorrow. #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @lemus.juan

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Fernando saying goodbye to his moustache 😜#DoSomethingForNothing Pictures by the incredible @lemus.juan - gracias hermano ✌️

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This is Juan, 27 years old. He came to Barcelona 8 years ago from Colombia, when he was still a teenager - "I grew up in a town in the north of Colombia. There wasn't many opportunities for a future so I moved to Medellin to find my father in the city. I got a job and stayed for a couple of years. After a while, our relationship became more difficult so I found myself searching for a new start once more. One of my cousins had moved to Europe so I saved all my money and thought I'd do the same."
Juan had to join a queue of others getting their haircut that day, so he sat down with a few of the older guys already waiting. It was a great atmosphere. People from all over the world, young and old, all having ended up here, sat together, at this moment. It's times like this that remind me of our potential as humans. Sometimes out here on the street, I see this pure acceptance of one another. It no longer matters where you were born or what your beliefs are, it's a sharing of experiences and cultures. When I witness this, it never feels like a weakness. It feels like a strength that nobody can touch.
Juan is homeless at right now but hopeful. He has worked many different jobs but couldn't make rent a few months ago and now he sleeps in a park nearby. #DoSomethingForNothing

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I bumped into Guillermo again the day after this photo was taken. He recognised me with a smile before showing his friends his hair and saying - "This is the guy I told you about! He came all the way from London just to cut my hair!" I'm so happy thankful to have worked with @arrelsfundacio here in Barcelona and made some new friends. Muchas gracias por todo! #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @lemus.juan

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Eyes that tell a thousand stories. I think about why so many of us watch movies, TV or read story books. We want to experience the life of someone else momentarily. Thats great, but it's worth recognising that it's already around us each day in real people. Guillermo is one of many who is genuinely listened to by @arrelsfundacio and @homelessfonts to help provide community and support. #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @lemus.juan

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This is Guillermo, 60 years old. He has been homeless for many years after moving to Europe from Argentina. As a younger man, he found work in Paris before moving to Barcelona.
I cut Guillermo's hair on the street in El Raval, after visiting the @ArrelsFundacio nearby. The volunteers working there are just incredible. I felt the love and community sprit as soon as I walked in. People of all ages dedicate their time to help the homeless in Barcelona. What sticks out the most is the relationships between those in on the street and those volunteering for Arrels. Such genuine friendships and bonds that have been built and it really shows in the smiles I saw all day. Guillermo has been with Arrels since 2008Β Β and uses many different resources. He is a great artist and collaborated with @HomelessFonts by sharing his typography. (Check out the work Homeless Fonts do to creatively bring people together to improve their lives) Soon, Guillermo will enter Llar Pere BarnΓ©s, a residence for the homeless as part of Arrels Fundacio housing scheme. He told me that the street can be a lonely place sometimes and that he doesn't want to live alone now, but would prefer to share his space and be with others.
There was so many beautiful moments on this day. Seeing Guillermo's face as we hugged after his hair cut was definitely one of them ✌️
#DoSomethingForNothing

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Hermanos. @louie_rivers @nj.heron

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It was great to meet Jason in Shoreditch recently. He has been homeless for over a year in east London. Since taking my clippers and scissors out on to the streets, it's been incredible to connect with so many others who are finding ways to humanise this issue and lend an ear to those feeling unheard in society. I teamed up with @ViceUK and @PhilipsUK to spread the word. Philip's YOUdoYOU initiative features individuals making a positive impact in their communities. It's difficult to solve a problem overnight, but a smile is a good place to start. #vice #philipsbeardtrimmers

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This is Alan, 37, originally from Shannon in Ireland. He's lived in London for twenty two years, homeless for the last three. After a long relationship broke down, Alan found himself sofa surfing in east London for a long time. He told me that his family had their own problems back home in Ireland and he couldn't bring himself to go back and bother them. When he ran out of friends to call upon, he spent this first night on the street and things have spiralled since - "Spending every time out here grinds you down ya know. You keep thinking - 'Hey, tomorrow's a new day and all that, but each day just blends into the next. It's a cycle and it's hard to see when you're gonna get out." #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @dailymama

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L O V E β€’ E A C H O T H E R #DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @dailymama

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It's always great going out to meet new friends with Agy @dailymama πŸ‘ŠπŸ½ She was over from Paris last weekend, so we spent some time with Alan in east London βœ‚οΈ#DoSomethingForNothing πŸ“· @dailymama

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This is John, 52 years old. I've cut John's hair a couple times previously and it's always great to see him to catch up, but this time was a bit different. When he took off his jumper for me to put a gown over his shoulders, I couldn't help but notice John had lost a lot of weight since the last time I had seen him. When I asked him why he didn't dance around the question. John has recently found out that he's terminally ill - "It's cancer. The doctor told me a couple months ago." John began to pullout all sorts of medicine to show me. My heart sank. It just shows how little we know about people we see on the street each day, in any city.
John was born in Whitechapel, London. He grew up with three brothers and two sisters. This large family was spilt open when John’s mother died - β€œI was 10 years old when it happened. I realised, when I grew up a bit, that my mother was actually a functioning alcoholic for a long time, that led her to a lot of health problems. My older siblings tell me how much she used to drink”

John’s father brought them up on his own for the next three years, but he passed away when John was 14 - β€œAfter my dad went, it was down to my older sister. She did everything she could, bless her. I left home at 16.” John is a carpenter and joiner by trade and had no problems finding work for a long time, but he was honest with me about his own struggles in battling addiction throughout his life - β€œHeroin. I wish I never tried the stuff. It’s burdened me for so long. I was exposed to it in my early twenties. I didn’t search to try it, but I didn't resist. It’s just, once it takes hold of you, it’s easy to forget everything and who you are.” John spent some time in Prison a couple of years ago. He got clean of heroin and moved on to methadone prescriptions. During the haircut John told me about a man that had approached him the week before - "You'll never guess what! Last week I was in a 4 star hotel for two nights! This guy approached me and after we spoke he said he'd book a room for me. It was amazing." Someone in John's position could be smiling a whole lot less, but not him. He's an inspiration. #DoSomethingForNothing

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30 years ago to the day πŸ”
To the incredible woman who brought me into this world and to everyone else in my life since then, I love you.

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It's safe to say Liam was happy with his haircut. πŸ˜†βœ‚οΈ#DoSomethingForNothing

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This is Tristan, 39 years old, homeless for 18 months in London. An electrician by trade, he told me that he still has all his old tools in storage -"I'm so happy I've still got them, they're valuable. There's no way I'm selling them, even now. Because I'm gonna work again, this isn't it. Luckily I knew somebody I did a job with once who was kind enough to look after them for me." When I first approached Tristan he was looking pretty down on his luck - hood up, staring into the distance, while hundreds of people walked in and out of a busy Victoria train station. Once we got talking, I wanted to know how it feels sat out here with everyone else rushing by - "It's sad you know, I'm not expecting much. Nobody knows who I am or why I'm out here, but I'm not just a 'homeless' guy. I'm a human, you're a human, even a smile makes a big difference." -
I asked Tristan what had happened that led to him sleeping rough - "It was a gradual thing, never saw it coming. Things didn't work out with me and my wife. She's amazing but it stopped working. I moved out to a small flat. Work dried up a bit for a while. To be honest I got lost in my own world and was questioning a lot of things about where I was at that time in my life...
After a while I wasn't able to make rent, you know what it's like in London. I sofa surfed for a couple months then wound up out here." - Yes, I know just how expensive it is living here and I've sofa surfed myself for a period of time too. I know lots of people that have also experienced this. I feel so lucky I've had friends and family that have been there for me. But without that support, it's not hard to see how anybody ends up on the street. Tristan - "We've got three kids that have grown up and one little one, a girl, she's 4 years old, I miss her so much. Her mother is incredible though, she brings her to see me still, even though I'm out here. I've gotta get off the street for her. I'll make it happen, somehow." #DoSomethingForNothing

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Bloody love you Jason. #DoSomethingForNothing

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