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Free haircuts and mental health advice for homeless

The charitable initiative in Belfast city centre is now in its second year. Credit: UTV

A Belfast barber shop and a social enterprise have teamed up to offer free haircuts and mental health advice for homeless people in the city.

The Man Shack took part in the initiative for a second year, alongside OutsideIn – who donate a hat or blanket to a homeless person for every item they sell.

As well as haircuts, a range of expert services were made available, including employment advice.

Everyone involved volunteered their time, in a bid to give something back.

Kenny Parker, owner of Belfast barber shop The Man Shack. Credit: UTV

“What we’ve realised is that even a one-off encounter can actually start the process of ending homelessness,” organiser David Johnston, from OutsideIn, said.

“For these guys today, we want them to know how valued they are – and if we can do that through a haircut, or food, or clothing, we just want them to have a Christmas that they’ll never forget.”

OutsideIn were themselves recently robbed of takings from their stall at Belfast Christmas Market.

As distressing as that was, David says the response from the public has been heartening – so much so that any money donated in the last two weeks has gone into Sunday’s event.

“We didn’t really see it that we were robbed – we saw it that the people who we were helping, those who are homeless, were robbed.

“So we thought how can we give back even more to them? So we just want to thank everyone who has got involved and donated.”

Every life is different, every story’s different – and if we really want to end homelessness, we have to say hello.

We have to get to know who these people are.

– David Johnston, OutsideIn

The Man Shack owner Kenny Parker said that getting involved was never in doubt.

“We managed to get three people jobs last year and we wanted to make this year even bigger,” he said, adding that his staff were only too happy to be among those giving their time to the cause.

“People open up to barbers, and that’s what we find.

“Guys come in and open up and that allows the barber to introduce them to a mental health expert who can maybe guide them further.”