Nasir Sobhani is a barber with an unusual clientele.
When he’s not working at a trendy salon in Melbourne’s north, he’s giving haircuts and hope to the homeless. He’s known as the “Streets Barber”.
“Sometimes, when you don’t care for yourself anymore, you give up hope and so when you give up hope you lose sight of what’s beautiful and that beautiful thing is yourself,” he said. “So if you can be physically beautiful then that can spark a change on the inner beauty.”
It’s a labour of love for this reformed drug addict. After hitting rock bottom, he found a new addiction.
“I get high, it’s simple as that.” he said. “I get happy, I get joy seeing someone else happy. So I think I benefit more than they benefit to be honest, so it’s almost selfish.”
“When you give up hope you lose sight of what’s beautiful and that beautiful thing is yourself.”
The Streets Barber made a guest appearance at the HoMie store in Melbourne. People lined the racks and business seemed to booming, but at this store the customers don’t pay.
Most of the time HoMie’s clothes are sold to the general public, but twice a month people who are struggling can choose a free outfit and experience the VIP treatment.
“They’re entitled to five items of clothing which we feel is equivalent to a full outfit but what they need they can have. We’ve got beanies, shirts, jumpers, thermals, warm jackets and as well as the clothes we’re offering food, coffee, haircuts and make up,” said co-founder Robbie Gillies.
He said it was all about making it easier for those with more to help those with less.
“We’re trying to make donating easier and receiving, dignified,” he said. “So donating is easier by coming in and purchasing good quality clothes at normal prices with profits going to the homeless community and receiving is dignified on our VIP shopping days where those experiencing homelessness and hardship are our VIP customers for the day.”
Currently more than 100,000 Australians are experiencing homelessness. Hank Kerr has experienced it first hand and says a haircut, a new outfit and the simple act of conversation has made a real difference.
“I get happy, I get joy seeing someone else happy. So I think I benefit more than they benefit to be honest.”
“It’s awesome, spiritual, and uplifting. It really takes on the true meaning of compassion for other people,” he said.
Phil Lemin has spent time sleeping rough. Now he’s a vendor for the Big Issue, a magazine that donates profits to those experiencing homelessness. After his haircut and new wardrobe, he donated some of his pay cheque to others.
“I got new clothes, new sleeping bag and I decided to hand ball five dollars to the donation tin over there,” he said.
Simone Flanagan from the Big Issue said clients were walking away with more than a new look.
“It really is about adding confidence to a person who’s experiencing disadvantage because if you feel good about yourself you project confidence and that’s going to have a flow-on effect when they are selling the magazine on the street and that will mean they have a positive outlook.”
Explore the complex issue of homelessness in Australia