With all the talk and all the politics about homelessness and other social problems, the real difference is made by an army of beautiful people making a personal connection on the ground.
Short Back and Sidewalks are a not-for-profit initiative offering up “haircuts free of charge and free of judgement” to those experiencing homelessness or hardship of any kind.
Starting with just two volunteers back in 2015, they have risen to great heights in only five years, expanding from Perth to regional WA, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Victoria and providing close to 5000 free haircuts from over 150 volunteers along the way.
After being involved in other volunteer and charity work for years, founder Craig Hollywood was inspired to start up a charity that provided more of a social connection.
“It’s a therapeutic experience to get your hair cut and have a chat about your day. If you’re experiencing homelessness, you might not have a lot of interactions, so that social connection is really important.”
Craig had a friend who co-owned Westons Barbershop, so together they set up a pop-up barber in a Northbridge carpark and did their thing for the day. Today, they choose to set up shop in locations that are familiar and safe spaces for their clients, such as at shelters and other homeless support services. They found that setting up in areas where their clients often already are provides a more convenient and comfortable service.
Having built up a name for itself, Short Back and Sidewalks has been asked to provide free haircuts at festivals across the state and Australia, such as at the One Day Festival in Fremantle and the Garma Festival of Traditional Culture in Northern Territory. They even started up a school holiday program with the NT’s Mutitjulu community to provide haircuts and a pop-up charity shop right next to Uluru.
In a win-win situation, Craig told us that the program is beneficial to the volunteers as well as the clients.
“The act of giving makes people feel good.”
Looking forward, Craig’s next venture is to gain funding for the volunteers to undergo trauma-informed counselling training, so they can go the extra mile and further improve the wellbeing of their clients.
Short Back and Sidewalks has teamed up with Melbourne Streetwear clothing brand HoMie to create a limited edition t-shirt as a fundraiser to keep those scissors gliding. If you are interested in supporting them by donning a t-shirt, volunteering, donating or hosting a free haircuts event, head to their website here.