HELPING HANDS: Providing haircuts for the homeless
Leah Waite and Michael Harvey pictured at Skins and Needles, Image: Terry Blackburn
A Middlesbrough businessman has teamed up with Skins and Needles barbers to provide haircuts and other services for those in need.
Michael Harvey, 32, set up Middlesbrough’s Helping Hands during lockdown to support those who need it most and he is now organising a monthly event for people who are homeless or financially in need.
Michael added: “During lockdown, we created Middlesbrough’s Helping Hands and I approached a couple of different companies about doing it.
“But then one day I was walking past Skins and Needles, and I know the owner vaguely so I popped in and asked him and he was raring to go.”
Prior to lockdown, Michael, who owns web development agency Digital High, was running a similar service with a different barber but that fell through when they changed landlords.
At the Skins and Needles Academy, on the last Sunday of the month, there will be free haircuts, food, hot drinks, and clothing, as well as advice services around drugs, alcohol, and housing, to name a few.
Middlesbrough Council is also working with Helping Hands and officers are in attendance on the day to find ways to support the people who drop by.
Michael added: “It has now turned into a free haircut day but it’s a lot more than that really. We have the local authorities there, a lot of different branches come.
“What we tend to tell people is, when they say these people are unapproachable, well now you have no reason to say that.
“Because now, on the last Sunday of every month there are going to be drug and alcohol counsellors, housing officials, and people to do with finances.
“You can also come to our day and get food, clothing, advice, courses, and emergency packages with toothbrushes.
“You can come once a month and receive the help from anyone you need. So there is no reason to say that they can’t get hold of someone from the council and other services.”
On arrival, people are given 90 minutes each to spend at the academy and take advantage of the services they need.
Leah Waite, who is an Area Manager at Skins and Needles and also recently won Barber of the Year at the British Hair and Beauty Awards, says it’s a great atmosphere on the day.
She added: “It’s lovely. When you have someone who goes away happy, it’s very rewarding for us. We are part of people’s day. It’s nice to be nice isn’t it. If you help one person turn it around then that is rewarding enough.”
The academy, which trains barbers, gives free haircuts all week and they noticed that there were a number of vulnerable people who were attending.
Therefore, setting up a day where services were also present seemed like a no-brainer.
Leah, 32, added: “It’s nice to be there when people need it. We want somewhere where people can go that’s safe and has no judgement and they can get a little bit of support.”
Michael speaks highly of everyone who is involved and is thankful for the efforts of the people who make the day a success.
He added: “I am just a middle man if you like, I just put everyone together.
“But all of these people have come together as a collective and if it wasn’t for them and the volunteers and people giving their time on a Sunday, none of this would be able to happen. It’s really amazing.
“There is no such thing as a selfish good deed. No matter how amazing it is what you’re doing, you get the rewards as well by the smile on your face.”
The next day at Skins Academy, which is at 170 Linthorpe Road, is September 26 from 11am – 3pm. The following dates after that are October 31 and November 29.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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