Hairdressers donate haircuts to Syrian refugees and the homeless

It’s one of the most-used rebuttals to Hamilton’s welcoming stance on refugees: “Why aren’t we helping out our own homeless people instead?” Well on Sunday at Wesley Urban Ministries, they did both.
Neil Singh was one of several barbers offering free haircuts to refugees and homeless people at Wesley Urban Ministries Sunday. (CBC)

It's one of the most-used rebuttals to Hamilton's welcoming stance on refugees: "Why aren't we helping out our own homeless people instead?"

Well on Sunday at Wesley Urban Ministries, they did both. Eight barbers and two hairdressers set up for hours to offer free haircuts for both homeless people and Syrian refugees.

"Something as simple as one haircut can really do something for them," said Neil Singh, 36, who was one of the several volunteers cutting hair.

"These are people too. They have families. You just don't know their stories."

In just two hours, Singh and the rest had already seen 50 people, with lots more waiting in the wings.

There were older homeless men, walking in and politely taking tickets before sitting down next to Syrian families — many of whom were there with young children.

The buzzing of clippers filled the air, as did the sound of several languages. Still, the barbers and hairdressers managed to overcome any language barriers when someone was in their chair.

"Lots people came and hadn't had a haircut in a year," said Singh, who runs Empire Hair Palace on King Street East.

"What we're hoping for is people to wake up and say, 'This is not how I looked yesterday. It's a new morning, and I'm a new person.'"

Wesley has helped settle just under 1,000 Syrian refugees in the city as of June.

That people were lining up outside the Wesley building before the first-time event started wasn't really a shock, said Adam Vrankulj, marketing specialist with Wesley Urban Ministries.

"There's a real need," he said. "It gives everybody a boost of confidence."

Anyone who is looking to donate items for either group can do so through Wesley. Here is a list of the organization's most needed items.