Besides not having a consistent place to sleep at night, there are a lot of aspects to being homeless that work together to keep you trapped in life on the streets. Without an address to put on an application or a place to plug in an alarm clock to wake you up in time for an interview, it’s tough to get a job.
Then, there’s the matter of your appearance. Hot showers aren’t the easiest thing to come by and something as simple and inexpensive as a haircut can be out of reach. Seeing that need, one man decided to do what he could to help out…
One day in April, a man was setting up an interesting collection of items on a busy sidewalk in the Center City part of Philadelphia, PA. He had a chair, a car battery, hooked up to some cables and a square of chalkboard with the message “Haircuts 4 Homeless” written on it.
Open For ‘Business’
After he’d set up the battery and made sure it was pushing out current to his electric hair clippers, he opened up shop and began giving out haircuts — free of charge — to any homeless person who was interested…
Brennon, a 44-year-old father of 4 had been a more conventional barber working out of a shop for years but had decided to give it up. “I was cutting hair for 11 years, and I was never happy,” he said. “I’ve been the happiest I’ve been doing Haircuts 4 Homeless and I get nothing in return.”
Doing his work for free and for those in need was far more fulfilling for him. “I felt like on a spiritual level, God wasn’t telling me to retire or quit cutting hair. He was just saying, ‘Approach it differently,’” he said…
Of course, a man cutting homeless folks’ hair on the sidewalk is sure to draw the eye of passersby. One of the people stopped dead in his tracks was Sean Johnson, the owner of a barber shop on the other side of town. He was impressed by Brennon’s spirit as well as his skill and offered him a job in his shop on the spot.
Not About The Money
Brennon told him that he appreciated the offer but had to politely decline. He’d given out more than 1,000 haircuts to the homeless over the last few months. Giving out fresh cuts had become about his passion to help those who are homeless rather than getting paid and he didn’t want to give that up…
What’s The Plan
A little over a month later, Sean ran into Brennon on the street as he was once again giving out free haircuts. The Haircuts 4 Homeless thing he was doing had obviously been on Sean’s mind because he had a critical question for Brennon: what was he planning to do when winter comes?
When Brennon Jones told him he hadn’t thought that far ahead, Sean invited him to an unused but fully furnished barbershop he owned, just a few doors down from his own shop. When they got inside, Sean did something incredible…
Brennon was taken by surprise when Sean tossed him the keys. “He said, ‘If you love it, it’s yours,’ and then he walked out,” Brennon recalled. “I was confused. I’ve been given a lot of things as a result of this mission, but nothing to this capacity.” He said.
After the PhillyVoice ran a story about Haircuts 4 Homeless in January, his work had gone viral. He’d appeared on Rachael Ray’s show and the donations that generated allowed him to take a 12-city “Cuts of Compassion Tour.” The Facebook Live videos had gotten so many views, a woman had even recognized a person whose hair he was cutting as her nephew — who she’d believed had been dead for 7 years — and through Brennon was able to reconnect with him…
Still, none of the donations and well-wishes compared to this. “For someone to give you a building, for him to say, ‘This is yours, no strings attached,’ it kind of blew my mind.” he added. But that was what Sean was offering. Sean had gone to barber school decades ago while serving time in prison for assault and he said he’d never forgotten the chances that people gave him. He wanted to pay it forward…
I Want To Be A Part
“You see a lot of bad things in this city,” Sean said. “When you see something good, you just want to be a part of it.” Brennon saw this as an opportunity to do even further good for the homeless and accepted Seans’ offer…
Brennon named the shop Phenomenon Perfection and Tuesday through Sunday, it would be just a normal barbershop, catering to the needs of paying customers. But every Monday, it was going to be something entirely different.
Mondays Are Special
That day would be set aside strictly for providing haircuts to people who are homeless, still free of charge. With the income of the other days of business, the shop would also be able to provide lunch and health screenings as well…
A New Start
Brennon said he didn’t know much about homelessness before he started helping out with haircuts but has since learned how vital his work is. That’s because a lot of homeless people “just need a new beginning,” and a haircut is a part of that.
“I always say it’s none of my business how they got in their situation, but I make it my business to help them get out,” he said. “It’s bigger than a haircut for me. They look at me as a blessing, but I look at them as a blessing.”…
But as good as things were for Brennon and his Haircuts 4 Homeless, Phenomenon Perfection wouldn’t last for all that long. Just 6 months after it had opened, there was a falling out between Brennon and Sean over the nature of their agreement.
Essentially, it came down to whether or not the shop was a gift as Brennon claimed or something else. Sean, who doesn’t actually own the building, says he was effectively subletting the property to Brennon. He paid $1,000 a month in rent and claimed he had an agreement to charge Brennon only $800…
Because their arrangement was just a verbal agreement, there’s no documentation to say which guy was telling the truth. Whatever the case may be, Brennon Jones was booted out of Phenomenon Perfection and Sean Johnson quickly found another tenant to replace him.
Back To The Streets
Still, Brennon continued on with his work in providing Haircuts 4 Homeless. He went back to giving out haircuts on the street and, whenever donations made it possible, and went on Cuts of Compassion tours to other cities to help the homeless there.