Hair Stylist • Musician Founder #DoSomethingForNothing Contact: [email protected]
This is John, 29 years old, homeless for 3 years. It was great to spend some time together on a really hot day in London last weekend. John and I had met briefly a few months back, but he didn't want his hair cut yet, this day was different. As soon as I approached him I saw his eyes light up and I knew he recognised me. Oxford St. was insanely busy as usual, so myself, John and his beautiful dog, Storm, went to find a quieter street for us to talk more. I asked what his childhood was like - "I grew up in north London, my mother died when I was just a few years old, so I was in care for a long time as a kid then on to different foster homes as a teenager. I never knew my dad until I was eighteen. He walked into my life one day, it was difficult, I didn't know how to feel. It turned out he had a lot of problems of his own and killed himself. We didn't really have the chance to build any kind of relationship." A lot has happened in John's life since then, but I could tell we were getting to some of the roots. Following this, John was in a relationship for some years, living with his girlfriend happily for a while, but that ended a few years ago. When he left he didn't have anyone to turn to before spending his first night on the street. I know all of this can be hard to hear, but sometimes it's the reality. All I can say is, I saw what it meant to John just fixing him up with a new hair do. This will grow out in time, but me listening to him that day will stay for much longer. I know how much it means for him and others I meet to feel part of a community, outside of their weekly cycle, not being judged but treated like a human. It's so incredibly easy and the effects can be seen straight away. #DoSomethingForNothing
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
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 📷 @dailymama
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 - “I 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 - “After 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 - “Heroin. 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
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
Big love to all Londoners this weekend, look after each other ❤️ - This is Liam, 59 years old. Originally from Dublin, he's been homeless in London for the last three years. We met last week outside Victoria train station. One of Liam's friends told him I was cutting hair for a few others so he'd made his way over.
Liam had a crutch to help him walk, I asked him what had happened - "I've had it since my accident a few years ago, it helps with support. I worked as a scaffolder for years, one day I fell from the second floor and really injured myself, things haven't been the same since then. There was a long period of trying to recover, my back never has. I had lost the ability to work, it really got to me ya know. I'm not gonna lie, I started drinking, Looking back now it's easy to see that I was depressed. I couldn't make the rent with the benefits I was getting. Things just spiralled." I asked whether Liam whether he had any family over here - "No, I have some back in Ireland. Shortly before my accident, my little brother passed away. I still remember that phone call like it was yesterday. I loved that kid, it hit me hard. I've thought about going back, but what am I supposed to do, just go and be a burden on my mum at this age? Nah, that's not how it works, I can't do that." -
I could see that alcohol was pretty much fuelling Liam's days at the moment and he was open to me about that. It's ok to recognise that prior to his haircut, most of us would have a certain perception of someone looking this way. Anywhere city you visit in the world, I think we've all seen it - that older man, stumbling around, drinking his days away. But remember, there's a life that's been lived before that moment. #DoSomethingForNothing
None of us had any choice in where on this planet we were born, or what circumstances we were born into. Some will triumph in the face of adversity. Others will fall from great heights down to the gutter. But, there is an initial framing of life waiting for us before we arrive. That fact is incontestable and when it's recognised, empathy begins. #DoSomethingForNothing
It's such a pleasure taking part in a @Leesasleep donation day. Always incredibly moving to witness these moments. At a recent donation in London, I saw what a brand new, comfortable mattress means to the residents at the Single Homeless Project in Camden. There's a variety of different people in this property, all with different backgrounds. But, one thing is unanimous - everyone still has hopes and dreams. Getting a better night's sleep helps to realise them. During the day, I cut hair for some of the residents there, meeting some truly lovely people.
I met Jason, 36 years old, in Shoreditch last week, with his girlfriend Selina. These two have been together for over a decade now, seeing each other through the good times and the bad. They've been homeless for six months in London, both telling me that they really haven't got used to life on the street. Saying - "It just doesn't feel right." They were such a friendly pair. We laughed, joked and talked a lot. I often get asked - 'How do you approach homeless people?' Which of course is a fair and valid question. The stereotypes surrounding people sleeping on the street usually bring about a lot of misconceptions. But, yes, there is drug and alcohol abuse. Yes, there are physiological issues. Yes, there are emotional barriers. The list goes on... I can only imagine how much thicker my skin would need to be, even to last a week out here. I guess I try think about that sometimes when I approach people to empathise I'm a deeper way. But honestly, the only approach that is guaranteed to not create a barrier, is to just be YOU. Behave how you would around any other human you encounter that day. Because remember, that person also has hopes, dreams and more than likely needs love just like most of us, making our way here in the short time we have on this amazing planet. Accept that some divisions could exist due to a wall that you have built and not the person in front of you.
I love this after shot of Jason as he looked in the mirror. Fresh do for the summer ❤️✂️#DoSomethingForNothing
This is Cedric, 42 years old.
I met Cedric in Paris a few days ago on Boulevard Monmarte. He has been homeless for three years now. At first, I noticed the sign he'd made, which read - ‘Vote for me in 2022.’ When I said hello, I was given a big greeting in return, we started talking.
Cedric is French, born in a small town in the north of Paris, growing up with his mother and two sisters. I was lucky Cedric spoke great english. I asked him where he had learnt - “I used to live in London for some years with my friends. I remember the carnivals so well, I loved my time there.” - It turns out Cedric and I have lived on the same street in Brixton, what are the chances! I do feel we connected almost immediately, so it was really nice to hear Cedric open up some more about his life recently - “I used to live with my girlfriend here in Paris. When we broke up it hit me pretty hard. Yes, it’s fair to say I started drinking a bit more then. I was holding down a job at a library near here. It didn’t pay all that much but I enjoyed my work. One day we found out the library was to be down sized considerably, so many of us lost our jobs. The drinking increased and so did rent on my apartment at the time. I guess I stopped caring. It wasn’t long before I became homeless.” Next to Cedric was his pal Dada. I could tell these guys were close and that they really helped each other out on the street - “I saw Dada looking at me one day. After staring at me for a moment, he broke into a big smile, we’ve been friends ever since. It’s important to have that when you’re homeless. I used to have an amazing friend that looked out for me, I suppose she was my step mother almost…” At this point, tears appeared in Cedric’s eyes, but he continued - “She owned a music venue in the 9th Arrondissement, it was the best place for music. Whenever I visited her she would feed me, talk to me and give me hope. I never had to paid. Always food and water, she would never give me alcohol.
One week, I visited and she was no longer there. I found out she had died. It really broke me. I still think about her everyday.” When it came to showing Cedric he mirror at the end, his reaction said it all.
Speaking to the lovely students at Colegio Corazón de María on Tuesday 🇪🇸 This day will stay with me forever. It's where #DoSomethingForNothing can be so important. To see young people engaged in this way, using a social media to connect with one another and have real, purposeful interactions.