We all know the importance of food and shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but we often underestimate the importance of other services and items that may be considered luxuries, such as basic grooming. Grooming, however, can be essential to helping a person feel good on the inside and out, helping them get a job, and generally making them feel cared for. To provide services to those in need of grooming, Nashville Street Barbers was created. Hairstylist Caroline Lindner founded the group in 2017 as a one-woman act offering free haircuts to those in need.
It has quickly expanded to include a group of barbers in the Nashville area who provide up to 80 free haircuts a week.
Lindner explained to A Plus via email that the idea for Nashville Street Barbers came to her when she saw a Facebook post about a group called Shower Up who had built a mobile shower truck to give free showers to the homeless. “My thought process was, ‘What better to go with a free shower than a free haircut?'” reflects Lindner. So, she contacted the group and they were keen to help.
Other people with the same vision joined and the Nashville Street Barbers was born. The collective’s Instagram sports the tagline, “Trying to make their community a better place one cut at a time!”
The hairstylist reveals that they didn’t need to spread the word too much to the homeless community about the free haircuts because the news traveled fast. What took longer was gaining trust. “I know most people are particular about their hair and our friends are no different,” she stated. “We had to prove and gain trust which eventually led to people coming back every Monday.”
“We learned early on that sometimes doing things the right way isn’t always easy, but it’s what you have to do to build up your community.”
Lindner explains that the interactions with her clients who are homeless are similar to any other clients. “We laugh and tell stories; we learn more about each other’s situations; we cry and embrace when we need solace.”
“Connection is the most important part of why we do this. The physical change of a before and after for our clients is remarkable, but not as much as the inward change. It truly is remarkable to watch.”
After working on Nashville Street Barbers for 1.5 years, Lindner was awarded Hardee’s “All Stars.” The honor celebrates people making a difference in their communities. Recipients receive a $10,000 grant to help them continue what they’re doing.
Lindner says she feels honored to be part of the “All Stars” and has plans for the funds. “When we first started giving these haircuts, our conditions were hard on our bodies, especially our backs, but we started to make adjustments,” she reveals. “Stools were brought in, cordless equipment was used and tables were borrowed. With this funding, we know that we will continue to improve the experience and be able to reach even more people.”
The hairstylist wants to use the grant to help spread the message that “every single one of us is valuable to others” and to hopefully inspire groups.
There is also talk of expanding Nashville Street Barbers beyond their area. Lindner envisions traveling to different cities to meet with like-minded barbers to set up local movements. “That is our number one dream, and we work towards this every week.”
Lindner hopes people hearing about Nashville Street Barbers take away a sense of compassion. “My biggest message is to get to know people before you judge and ridicule them. Everyone deserves that, whoever you are.”
“People that do not have houses are not dirty, addicted, jobless or have different morals. To be constantly looked over and dehumanized will take a toll on anyone,” she continues. “I think people are too quick to judge the homeless, and they rely on old notions and other people’s experiences to form opinions that the homeless are somehow lesser than them.”
Lindner states, “They have wants, needs and dreams, just like you and I. Our hope is that through the Hardee’s “All Star” program we can further inspire the community to take this message of acceptance with them.”