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Eugene barber gives free haircuts to unhoused people

Barber and customer.
Brian Bull
At the 410 Garfield Safe Sleep Site, Matt Fernandez (seated) has his hair trimmed by Kwajo Assuman (right) of Trailhead Barbershop. Assuman has done a previous free haircut clinic and says it's important to help others.

Many of us take haircuts for granted, but for the unhoused, it can make a huge difference in getting back on one’s feet. 

A barbershop recently set up a couple chairs at a Safe Sleep Site in Eugene, where free haircuts were given to residents.

Inside the 410 Garfield Safe Sleep Site, Kwajo Assuman of Trailhead Barbershop put his hair clippers to work on customer Matthew Hernandez.

Barber cutting customer's hair.
Brian Bull
Kwajo Assuman puts the finishing touches on Matt Hernandez' hair. Assuman figures he and an assistant will provide up to 20 free haircuts to residents of the 310 Garfield Safe Sleep Site during their five-hour shift.

“I usually do a skin-tight fade, medium high,” said Hernandez, as Assuman carefully glided the clippers behind his ear.

Hernandez is from Colorado. He came to Eugene to be with his fiancé about a year and a half ago, after her mother died. Both are experiencing homelessness, and Hernandez is currently working at a KFC. He told KLCC that he really appreciated the trim.

“It not only brings me self-confidence, but I go out into public and I don't get weird looks," he said. "It really it really means a lot that these guys are here.” 

For many people who are unhoused and looking for work, a well-groomed appearance can provide a sense of dignity, as well as open doors that would have normally stayed shut.

Assuman figured he and his assistant can cut up to 20 people’s hair during a five-hour shift at the shelter.

“It's not always about a transaction,” added Assuman. “Sometimes you could get a conversation with somebody and that's as big as the transaction, you know. So just giving back where we can.”

A City of Eugene official says they plan to bring back the free haircut clinics in December, for residents at the 410 and 310 Safe Sleep Sites, and possibly Everyone Village.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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