Islanders get free haircuts at Community Outreach Centre

The Community Outreach Centre teamed up the with John Howard Society to give Islanders free haircuts on Monday.

'It's not just about the haircut. It's the way you feel with the haircut'

Hairstylist Lynn Smith says she was expecting close to 25 clients on Monday. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

It was a fresh look and a new start for a number of people who received free haircuts at the Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown Monday. 

One by one, people enthusiastically hopped into hairstylist Lynn Smith's chair for a trim. Some had specific requests for their new do — others just let Smith work her magic, eagerly awaiting the results. 

"People's demeanour totally changes from the time they actually sit in the chair till the time they get up," she said. 

"A haircut seems to be a pretty simple thing to a lot of people, but it can make or break the way somebody feels about themselves."

'A terrific thing'

The centre offers support to Islanders struggling with homelessness, poverty or mental health issues. The building has access to washrooms, laundry, phones and computers.

After I get a haircut, I feel like a million bucks. So, everybody, everybody deserves that feeling.— Jody Sentner, Wrap Around Rural Housing

According to supervisor Alan Hicken, this is the first time it's offered free haircuts.

He said the centre teamed up with the John Howard Society to make it possible. 

'We have masks on, so it's hard to see but people smile with their eyes and you can totally feel it,' says hairstylist Lynn Smith. 'They're very thankful and appreciative and that's what matters.' (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

"They feel good and they look good and you know what? We all need a little pick me up," said Hicken. 

"The fact that they're here and there's some smiling faces getting their haircuts, I think that's a terrific thing." 

'It's so important'

Jody Sentner, program manager of Wrap Around Rural Housing with the John Howard Society,  said the idea was developed while trying to come up with different ways of helping members in the community.

Free haircuts seemed like a step in the right direction. 

'These challenges that we have for individuals are tough and we all need to work together,' says Alan Hicken, a supervisor at the Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown. 'Every little thing is a small step to helping them.' (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

"It's so important to just have that confidence and that self-esteem going into a job interview or even anywhere," she said. 

"I know myself after I get a haircut, I feel like a million bucks. So, everybody, everybody deserves that feeling."

Typically Smith said she sees approximately eight clients a day. On Monday she was expecting around 25 customers to sit in her chair.

Most had to sign up in advance to get a haircut, however, some managed to snag an appointment in between clients. 

"I'm just going to keep filling the chair, if they want to come, they can come," said Smith. 

"When everybody clears out, I'll go home."

Future of the program

The free haircuts were only scheduled to take place on Monday. However, Hicken, Sentner and Smith said they hope a similar event can take place again in the future. 

"I'm so happy with the outcome," said Sentner. 

'It benefits a lot of people and it makes us really happy to know that we're helping the community,' says Jody Sentner. 'I think that if it sticks and if it's a resource that's being used and if it's a resource that's being needed, then we'd like to continue to do it.' (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

"I think it's the self-esteem and the confidence. You just feel refreshed and like you can conquer the world." 

Hicken agrees. 

"We all feel good when we get a haircut," he said. "I think they're pretty happy." 

As for Smith, she said she knows it's not just about a simple trim but the sense of confidence that comes along with it. 

"You hold yourself a little higher. You just feel better. It's a total package thing," she said. 

"It's not just about the haircut. It's the way you feel with the haircut." 

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