The gift of dignity: Pride of Cork award for hairdresser who helps homeless and vulnerable

The gift of dignity: Pride of Cork award for hairdresser who helps homeless and vulnerable

Joseph and his staff prior to completing haircuts for the homeless at Christmas 2018.

A hairdresser who gives free appointments to the homeless and organises back-to-school items, Christmas gifts, and Easter eggs for children in a refuge is to receive a Pride of Cork award later this year.

The organisers of the awards say that Joseph Byrne, of Joseph’s Hair Salon, on Glasheen Road, in Cork City, “always looks to see what he can do, how he can help, and who will benefit most from his ideas”.

“For many years, Joseph has been operating a special day of appointments for the long-term homeless during Christmas week and when Covid hit, he gave out vouchers which could be used once lockdown allowed,” they said. “Joseph has also started a helping-hand initiative for parents with children going back to school. He has asked for donations of pens, pencils, bags, and all other items that would help families in need and the tremendous support that this initiative has received has seen many deliveries of items to Edel House, who will distribute them to those that will benefit from them.

“Joseph is involved in many other initiatives, with many of them privately organised and delivered.”

Joseph also provides free hair cuts for Holy Communion children from vulnerable or needy backgrounds.

Joseph says it is enormously enriching to help the vulnerable.

He says that when life is about surviving, having your hair washed and styled can have a benefit to your spirit that far outweighs how you look in the salon mirror.

“I had an experience with a homeless man, where he got very emotional, because he got his hair shampooed.”

Joseph says that homelessness does not necessarily mean people on the streets. To him, the term also applies to people in emergency accommodation.

“I was in a place recently where they had three double bunk beds in a tiny room and there was a communal shower,” Joseph says. “They are people without a home.

“They might have a roof over their head, but they don’t have a home.”

He is glad to cut the hair of women who are in vulnerable situations, perhaps single mothers.

They can’t afford to get their hair styled regularly and are, instead, ploughing their scant resources into their children’s needs. He derives satisfaction from pampering these women. However, he has to bury his feelings when cutting the hair of youngsters who have been through tough times.

Joseph repeatedly emphasises that helping the vulnerable is not something we should just think about at poignant times, such as Christmas.

“The other thing to stress is that this isn’t just for Christmas, because Christmas comes and goes,” Joseph says. “I don’t want people going into January thinking, ‘That’s it for another year.’

“So, what I normally do is I have people in during the year, but the paying customers wouldn’t know. Even, sometimes, the staff wouldn’t know that people aren’t paying, because I give out vouchers.”

Joseph is looking for donations of school uniforms, schoolbags, pencil cases, copies, pencils, books, and crayons for children in need.

Donations can be made at the salon on Glasheen Road.

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