Hairdresser / Musician Founder #DoSomethingForNothing ✉️ email@example.com 📌 London U.K.
This is Malcome, 59, born in Toronto, Canada. I met him at his afternoon during a busy day out cutting hair in London. Malcome has been homeless for two years now - sleeping in doorways, parks and anywhere else that looks safe enough to spend the night. I asked whether he has been in this situation before - "No, I never imagined I'd be here either. But, oh well, here I am. I'm still alive and that's something. I was living in Russia for a while with the women I was going to marry. I came to the U.K because I was trying to sort out a permanent visa to travel back there and live with her. I thought I had enough money to get the visa and maintain myself here in London until it came through, but it didn't last. So, I ended up out here."
Malcome showed me some photos of him as a young man, telling me he used to be in the Canadian military - "I've always worked in different places. When I got out of the military, I followed my dreams and trained to be a scuba diving instructor. I got my licence and began travelling to different countries to teach. It was an amazing journey, I met so many lovely people along the way. I can speak three languages now."
Malcome seems stuck at the moment but I hope this is just another chapter for him. He is charismatic beyond words and a true optimist. He's the kind of guy that must lift so many others that are on the street also, just with his presence. It was so good to give him a makeover. He was chuffed - "Today just got a hell of a lot better!" #DoSomethingForNothing
I'll always remember Wesley. I saw him again about three months after this hair cut. We had a massive hug straight away, before he said - "Mate where have you been?? I need another haircut, but to be honest I just wanted to chat to you about things." - It's moments like that which confirm what this is all about for me - Forget the haircut, this is all about reconnecting and being there for one another, regardless of relation. That won't bring you down, it'll uplift you. #DoSomethingForNothing -📷 @essexrambler
All of us will experience pain in our life to some degree. We all know what it's like to feel vulnerable and insecure. Unless of course you're made of plastic. Or, maybe some idiot once told you crying is only for the weak. I have my regrets, perhaps I can't speak for all of us on this one. The point I'm making here is, fundamentally, we are all capable of making mistakes, therefore, it only seems logical that we all have the capacity to provide empathy for one another. When someone's at their worst, that's no time to turn your back. #DoSomethingForNothing
This is Reza, 35 years old. Reza is Iranian and moved over to the U.K ten years ago. He has been homeless for the last three years. I asked him what happened and how he became homeless - "I used to live in a place in North London, it wasn't very big but my girlfriend used to stay a lot because she had problems of her own and needed somewhere. Unfortunately my landlord found out and didn't want to hear any excuses. He wrote me a letter without much notice to leave." - Reza's girlfriend suffers from schizophrenia and needs medication to keep on top of it. Reza was also honest with me about his own medicating at present - "I'm on methadone, I have been for two years. I got off heroin and have been on it ever since. I never wanted to start using heroin but being out here, you see a lot of drugs, it was the first year on the streets that was the toughest." My heart went out to Reza, he had such a warm nature about him that made you want to sit and speak all day.
This is a very complex situation for him and his girlfriend. It gets even more complicated - Last year, Reza lost his documents, which makes everything much harder when trying to acquire any help from the government. But where there's community there's always hope. I saw a massive change in Reza's whole demeanour, just from the small time I spent with him. #DoSomethingForNothing @dosomethingfornothing
These are the moments. For me, they are worth more than any of the material things in life. All the possessions that we're led to believe will fulfil and nourish us as humans, it can make you forget what's real - humanity. It's here and it's all around us, everyday. You just have to tune in. #DoSomethingForNothing @dosomethingfornothing
This is Reza, I met him in Victoria yesterday. Currently without the correct papers to get a job and a girlfriend in need of a medicine, it's fair to say life is tough for him right now. Reza and his partner sleep under a bridge by the River Thames each night. He hadn't had his hair cut properly for years. Watch for his transformation and more of his story tomorrow ✌️#DoSomethingForNothing
Lee, 33 years old, used to work on a construction yard for a long time when he lived back in Yorkshire. He's been homeless in London for two years now.
I met Lee not far from the madness of Picadilly Circus in the centre of London, sat on a quiet street reading the paper. When I said hello, he seemed fragile and timid. I asked Lee how he was doing - "Not too good to be honest. I slept terribly last night. I was moved when sleeping outside a church but I managed to get a couple hours sleep in that doorway over there." Lee pointed out a place across the road. That reality still shocks me every time. I can't think of what a week sleeping on the street would feel like, let alone a year. I know this is a massive reason why so many people sleeping rough turn to drugs. I'd want something to numb me from that. Lee spoke to me pretty honestly about this - "I got off heroin. I'm on methadone now which I take daily. Also drink, that plays a huge part of my life right now. I wish it didn't. Believe me when I say it isn't for fun." - It's that last sentence that makes so much sense to me - I don't believe anybody I meet out here is truly doing it for fun. More often than not it's dependancy. It's getting from one day to the next. Next time you hear a stereotype about homeless people spending all their money on drugs and alcohol, think of why that might be and listen to their story before any judgement. #DoSomethingForNothing
Big thanks to @onin.london for the feature. Btw If you don't already follow @dosomethingfornothing get yourself over there now 😊
On another note - anybody that's around in London tomorrow evening, I'll be speaking as part of a panel in Putney (link in bio section) Come along! The event is for my pal @papakowbaiden He's launching the Kickstarter for his book, In Our Hands, which challenges the stereotypes of homelessness. Amazing work mate!
#DoSomethingForNothing 📷 @nylasammons
This is Darren, 34 years old.
Darren is from Liverpool, he's been homeless for two years now, spending one year on the streets there before heading down to London. He sleeps outside Peckham Rye train station with his pal Steve.
I've got to know Darren pretty well recently, seeing him most weeks. I first asked him if he'd like haircut a long time ago, but for one reason or another he wasn't ready. I've heard that reluctancy before. When you don't have much in the way of direct contact with others, it becomes really difficult to let people in and there can be a lot of insecurities.
Darren was born on a council estate in Liverpool. I asked him what it was like growing up there - "It was a rough place, I saw a lot from a young age, drugs were common. I think I must have only been twelve the first time I tried something." He used to sleep in central London when he first arrived in the city - "I moved down to Peckham because it was crazy in central London. It seemed that everywhere I went people tried to move me on. I wasn't allowed to sleep in certain places, or even sit down sometimes because there would be complaints. But here it's a bit better, I feel more community. It's really nice when people actually say hello to you each day." Just imagine for a moment how that must feel. Whatever the reasons that lead to someone being homeless, surely nobody deserves to be treated like mess that needs clearing up? I mean, we're talking about another human being here. It's easy to forget that.
It's always difficult to describe someone like Darren in the just the words I put down here. But trust me, this guy is warm, gentle and has a big heart. He knows better than anybody what his failings are, so any judgement piled on top of that really hurts.
Just spending some time with Darren lifted his spirits and lifted me in the process. You can't put a price on that.
This is Will, 27 years old. We met on Oxford St. central London. After sitting down next to him for a while, I could see Will was suffering. I asked when the last time somebody stopped to speak with him. With strange smile Will said - "I don't actually remember. It's been days I think." - Will grew up in south west England, moving through different foster homes. He spoke to me about when he was younger - "I never really fit it in, I don't know why. I started smoking weed a lot when I was a teenager. That helped a bit." It was easy to see this wasn't a normal social situation for Will, that was sad to witness. I get that it might not always be easy to approach people in this way, but I could see how much this meant to him. The haircut is secondary to just connecting with someone and showing you care.
This is Ali, before his haircut in Athens. It's been six months since my trip there with @Refuaid where I met this beautiful kid and many other incredible human beings. This still goes down as such a life changing experience.
As hard as you try to imagine when you watch the news, you can't prepare yourself for the emotion you feel when you're actually having a conversation with someone that has lost their family. Innocent peoples lives, that have been changed forever. It immediately brings about the realisation - every single person here has a story and tragedy of their own. I remember thinking - How bad must it be for children and babies to be here and undertake such a dangerous journey. The answer- it really is that bad.
But, there is hope. Just spending time with people, gave me that hope. Despite the awful things that had happened to them, I still felt so much love, strength and positively for the future.
More optimism comes from seeing what amazing organisations like @Refuaid do each day, to genuinely impact and make a difference to these problems in countries like Greece. With a huge focus on integration and trying to provide people with a life once again.
Check out what @Refuaid do and show them your love ✌️❤️
This is Dean, 27 years old. He has been homeless for many years, in and around London. Dean has cerebral palsy and struggles a lot with mobility. I could see that this must have a serious effect on his day to day life out here as he needed help to stand up before he could walk.
I met him on the Strand on a busy afternoon and asked whether I could sit down next to him. In this moment, I always imagine what it must be like, being out here all day, with thousands of people walking past. A small hint at this is enough to realise just how isolated one must feel, if this was your every day life.
Dean spoke to me of his loneliness and kept saying he was "Looking for his sweetheart." I couldn't work out if this was someone he already knew, or someone he wanted to meet. Either way, it was pretty tough to hear. He continued to gradually talk more about his life and how he was moved around to different foster homes when he was younger.
I know Dean experienced some amazing kindness from a stranger a few years ago, who took him in and looked after him for a while. Clearly something happened to bring him back out here on to the streets. This, he didn't explain.
Despite the struggles Dean faces, seeing him smile during the haircut really meant something. I'm not naive enough to think that it changed this guys life. But, if we all start listening and taking more time for each other, I believe that's the beginning of real change.
Wherever you go in the world, kindness will never be unappreciated, it connects us all. Anything that does that is worth pursuing. Hairdressing is my way of giving back. It's amazing to be working together with @Leesasleep now, they give a great example of kindness constantly, with their ONE-TEN programme, donating brand new mattress' to homeless shelters across the U.S, Canada and Europe.
It doesn't matter what you do, there's always a way to show others you care.
This is Kerry, 46 years old.
He is from the west of Wales and has been homeless in London for one month now, arriving here after his wife and him split - "Things got really hard between us. She suffers from bi-polar, our personalities clashed sometimes. It got to the point where we just couldn't carry on. I came here to look up my brother. I lost contact with him a long time ago, maybe ten years now. But it turns out he's moved on."
Kerry used to work restoring houses for many years, then trained to be a chef. This is what he'd like to continue doing -
"I suppose being from a small town in Wales, it's a bit of a shock being here. I spent most of my life there, but I did have some work here in the city for a year when I was younger."
Kerry doesn't drink or use drugs, he just concentrates on getting a good meal. I bumped into him in Victoria yesterday as part of or @dosomethingfornothing day in London. I know cutting hair is a great way to get to know somebody, but anybody is capable of listening if you have the time. That is the most important thing I think, just stopping to begin with, finding out how someone is doing. It's not just about homeless people, it's community and being there for one another. Kerry was full of smiles after the haircut - "I know I'll get back on my feet, I've just got to use this time to think and move forward." #DoSomethingForNothing
I got asked on a panel at @Adweek Europe today - 'What are your proudest moments since #DoSomethingForNothing began?' - and it's this right here. Showing somebody they've still got it, there is hope. You may feel forgotten and unheard by some, but not today and not now this movement keeps on growing.
Listening to each other has gone out of fashion, but we're bringing it back. Human connection is what it's about. Today I can provide hope for someone. Tomorrow I might need it from you. 📷 @mikewhiter