#DoSomethingForNothing email@example.com 📌 London, UK
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This is Mark, 47 years old. Born in south England, Mark moved around from place to place growing up, whilst his father served in the army - "It was difficult for me to understand when I was a child. I had just enough time to make a new friend before we had to move on. Things became difficult with me and my dad as I grew up." In his early twenties, Mark joined the army himself serving in Kosovo then Afghanistan. He showed me some burns and scars on his arm - "It was while I was in Afghanistan, we hit a land mine. It all happened so quickly. Two of my friends at the front of the vehicle died instantly. After that, everything began to lose it's meaning. I left the next year." - Mark suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for a long time afterwards - "I struggled to know what road to take after my time in the army. I spent some time with my mother before she passed away. I'm glad we had that together. I've been in Australia for a long time since then. I needed a new start. I feel in love there. I had to come back to the U.K. because of my visa. There's not really anybody I can rely on here anymore, I've been homeless since arriving back. We still speak every day though. I've got this cheap little phone so I go to a cafe and we speak on whatsapp for free. I have to get myself back there. Stupidly, I overstayed in my visa so it's going to be difficult. Maybe she'll come here. I hope so. #DoSomethingForNothing
This is Tomás, 27 years old. I saw him laying on the sidewalk completely isolated from the busy streets around him in downtown Los Angeles. At first, he could barely his eyes open as I spoke to him. I see this quite often, people literally passed out in the street. If you live or work in a big city, I'm sure you see it also. As I started speaking more to Tomás he began to stir and looked up at me. I asked him what he needed and went to grab him some water from a store nearby. He must have had a big hit of something to knock him out in that way. It's times like this that remind me how important it is to make the distinction between recreational drug use and addiction. Tomás clearly wasn't having fun when I found him, pretty much in the gutter with people walking past. As I started cutting his hair, he became more talkative, telling me that he really didn't remember much of what has happened to him the last year he's been out on the street. I could see he was struggling to think back. I didn't push it. I don't know what happened to Tomàs to lead him here but I'm sure growing up he wouldn't have pictured this. Perhaps he made some bad mistakes. Or perhaps he's just been dealt a bad hand in life so far. For me that's irrelevant, I was just happy to try and bring some good vibes to his day and to mine. We went to share some food together afterwards. #DoSomethingForNothing
I got back from L.A. today and I'm already missing some really special people. This goes out to @paulysproject - Paul was kind enough to show me how he connects with many that are homeless and living in extremely poor conditions on skid row. Paul’s son, Pauly, born blind and autistic, could only be calmed with the sound of music in his ears. Inspired by his son’s reaction to music, Paul, with his own money, purchased radio headsets and began to distribute them to the homeless in downtown L.A. This has now grown into a movement of people getting together to help each week I saw the connection Paul has built with so many in this area as we went to visit in the evening. Go check out his page and see the impact he makes in the community. Thanks again brother! #DoSomethingForNothing
For those of you who remember my friend Cedric, read on as I have to share some sad news.
Just a few months ago I was sat next to Cedric on Boulevard Montmartre, Paris. We listened to our favourites - The Clash and David Bowie, while he showed me the latest books he was reading. From our first encounter, two months prior, I could feel Cedric had a magic inside. The kind of magic that even a harsh winter, sleeping on the streets of Paris, hadn't yet taken from him. When he spoke, I listened, as did everybody that spent time with this man. Cedric's passion for art and love for others was so real. We shared our mistakes and our dreams. We were open with one another about what life means to us.
Today, it's not easy for me to say that Cedric is no longer here. His heart stopped beating at Hôpital Cochin last week, after being taken in with Pneumonia.
Thinking back to the first time I cut Cedric's hair, your reaction here was incredible. So many of you sent him messages for me to show to him, which I did when I returned to Paris. I'll never forget what he said - "Wow there's so much love, and from thousands of people?? Maybe there is a chance with this. A chance to bring humans together."
Your love for the people I meet means the world to me and to them. I want you to know what it meant to this human being. Thank you.
Au revoir mon ami. Mon frére. Brille parmi les étoiles.
I will always remember you and your smile
This is 'True' 39 years old, I met him a few weeks back on my last day in NYC. True and his wife, Tasha, have been homeless for the last three years but recently got the news they have been given a room which they can move into move into before the worst of the winter weather sets in. They both grew up in the Bronx, speaking to me of the struggles they saw among their families from a young age. What they lack in equity, they make up in love. I could feel how real that was between them. #DoSomethingForNothing
This is Maureen, 65 years old, born in Washington D.C. She was sitting on some steps across from Union Station. I asked Maureen how her day was going - "It's ok, could be better, could be worse." Maureen noticed my accent - "Hey where you from? England? That's nice. I was in Europe for a while when I was younger, then I moved back to DC and got married. I've been married again since then. My second marriage gave me belief in relationships once again. There was love in a real way. But circumstances got the better of us. His work used to take him away a lot and I was a nurse so I had to stay put. Sometimes, it was like we were passing ships in the night."
When I offered Maureen a haircut she said - "I just need a trim, I don't need much off. I was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and lost all of my hair during chemotherapy. I'm very precious about it now it's grown back. The health bills are huge. I had to do everything to start paying them." Maureen has been sleeping in the streets here in LA for a few months after running out of money. Her next stop is New Mexico to see a friend. It was nice to give her some good vibes to keep moving. #DoSomethingForNothing
Here's a look back to last month when @Leesasleep and I worked with the local community experiencing homelessness in Virgina Beach, VA. It was a real privilege to visit their local partner @jcocvb - It's incredible to see Leesa's One-Ten social impact programme continue to grow across the U.S. and Europe, donating one mattress to homeless shelters for every ten they sell.
This is Jimmy, 76 years old, living on the streets for the last 3 years in Dallas. When I bumped into him he was carrying some boxes so I offered to help. I asked Jimmy where he was from - "Right here in Texas. I was born in a small town about 130 miles from here. Sometimes I think about going back, but there ain't nothing there for me now. My mother and father died a long time ago when I was young. That took a lot out of me. But, I know my mum wouldn't have wanted me to be walking around with my head hung down like a dog. She used to say to me - 'James, be strong no matter what you have to do. You're gonna run into difficult things in life but that's all part of life. If you keep yourself and who you are, you'll be able to get through anything." - This conversation was in the first five minutes of meeting each other. I was listening to Jimmy's words and I was feeling every one of them - "You know for me, this is just a period of time like all the others in my life. Hell, I've worked and worked but you can't keep going forever. I had a wife but we never had kids. She passed and life hasn't been the same since. The world keeps turning and there ain't no stopping it. I'm sleeping outside at night time. During the day I try go to the park or the library to read." After cutting Jimmy's hair, I took a polaroid photo of us together. When I handed it over, I saw something move in him and he began to shout - "I'll tell the world this is my friend! My friend!" I had a tear in my eye. I wasn't sure of what that meant at the time but I think now I know. #DoSomethingForNothing
Dallas! Come join us this evening for an inspirational movie about art and the power of relationships. Focusing on those living on the streets of this city. Spread the word to anyone that's in town. @lushlifeen & @gorillaarthouseen presents 'Samples of Society' screening at The Museum of Street Culture. Q+A with Hal Samples, Simon Constantine, myself and special guests. Address: 508 Amphitheater, 508 Park Avenue, Dallas, Texas - See you there!
This is Phil, 55 years old. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for most of his life. As a young man he worked on construction sites, before moving on to delivery jobs. Phil lost his home two years ago, he's been on the streets ever since. He was renting for a long period and found out the house was being sold. Letting prices had risen in the area, so things had already become increasingly difficult financially. Phil struggled to find a new home and began staying in a hostel. It wasn't long before these pressures built up and started to have an effect on his work. It was only a matter of time before he lost his job. -
Initially, Phil wasn't all that approachable when I said hello. He clearly had some barriers up. But, during the haircut, they began to dissolve - "I was married for a long time. My wife passed away a few years ago. To be honest, I lost a lot of motivation afterwards. That, coupled with circumstances was what got me here. It's been a tough time, especially the winter, but I try and stay in a hostel when I can. It looks as though I might have a permanent room coming for me soon, so that's good news."
When I handed Phil the mirror at the end I loved his smile as he said - "Hey! I used to look like that!"
I know a haircut isn't giving Phil anything that will change his life drastically right now, but I believe in the hope you can provide for someone in the small things that we do each day. If you think back to the times in your life when you've been at your worst, what was it that pulled you out? #DoSomethingForNothing
This is 'Blue', 63 years old. He was born in South Central, Los Angeles, where he grew up and went to school. Blue trained in welding and worked many years for a company here in the city. In his forties, he met someone and moved with her to Phoenix, AZ, for almost a decade until they broke up. It was on his return to California that things became difficult. Blue said he struggled to get started again - "I've never had much in the way of family. It's tough when the only door to knock on is your own... You had to grow up fast where I came from."
I got talking to Blue as I walked out of a shop near where he was sitting. One of the first things he said to me was - "Hey, did you hear about Tom Petty? Man, that's really sad. I loved that guy." Blue went to see him in concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the 80's. I was lucky enough to see Petty in London just a few months ago so we got chatting.
I saw Blue's emotions begin to surface during the haircut and tears appear in his eyes. I always talk about how removing your ego is the best way to truly connect with people each day. It's difficult sometimes, to completely drop your thoughts and worries and where you're supposed to be. But the small moments like this I've experienced can be transcendent. Getting lost in a complete stranger. #DoSomethingForNothing
Teaching at @withthesetwohandsproject in Quito, Ecuador late last year. Really missing these beautiful people, where kisses were a daily occurrence. If you didn't see what I got up to there then check out @withthesetwohandsproject page. Cassandra, the lovely lady who set up this programme up from scratch, aims to empower underprivileged women via hairdressing to help them earn money for their families
This is Tod, 37 years old, from North Carolina. I sat down next to Tod near Santa Monica pier and we got talking. His journey across the country has landed him here on the west coast, arriving a few months ago. He sleeps on the street not far away. I asked him why he left his home - "Do you ever feel disillusioned with everything? That feeling hit me really hard a while back. Everything began losing it's meaning. My job was paying me just enough to cover rent and food each month with little to spare, then it's starts all over again. It felt like I was living someone else's life. I took anything I had saved and got on a greyhound bus. The road has been tougher than expected but the kindness of strangers helps a lot. I think I'm ready to head back to Carolina soon. I'm unsure of what I'll do when I get back, but I needed to get away from it all for a while."
That disconnection Tod feels and the struggle of everyday life is something most of us can relate too. It's hard to combat that. What do you do when you feel this way?
I was racing against the light to cut Tod's hair but I finished up in time to watch the sun go down together and talk some more. #DoSomethingForNothing
This is Joey, homeless in NYC for many years now. He served in the U.S. army for a long period as a younger man. I met Joey in Union Square Park recently with his good friend John.
I could tell it had been a long time since a stranger had given Joey this kind of attention. Initially he was very shy, so it was really nice to see his confidence increase during the haircut. A new person came to life. I love these moments and it's exactly what #dosomethingfornothing is all about. Recognising your influence as one human to give hope to another. It was clear to see that Joey relies heavily on alcohol to get him through each week at present. Most of us know what it's like to enjoy a drink leisurely and socially as part of our lives, but this, of course, is very different. Recreation looks nothing like dependency. It's important to recognise that difference to not confuse the issue. Whenever I see people like Joey with a bottle in their hands, it's very rarely coming from a place of recklessness. It's a masking of certain pains that usually run deep. Addiction is difficult to understand sometimes, but love and compassion is always the right approach if you want to help.