The Transformative Power of a Haircut

By United Way of King County, on April 30, 2014 | In Fighting Homelessness

Jordan McKerneyGuest blogger Jordan McKerney is the Senior Communications Specialist at Russell Investments and also volunteers at United Way on the Emerging Leader Marketing Committee. Read on to hear about her experience at the Community Resource Exchange.

Several years ago, I had the chance to volunteer at the Community Resource Exchange at the guest intake tables. I spent the day talking to hundreds of local people experiencing homelessness and learning a bit about them and what they were looking for from the event. One of the most requested services was something all of us can agree holds a certain transformative power: a haircut.

This year, I volunteered at the Community Resource Exchange with a group of United Way Emerging Leaders, and we were able to see the haircut services in action. Our haircut station was buzzing with activity all day long, serving hundreds of guests. My job was to manage the ever-growing wait list, which we kept on a large whiteboard so guests could keep track of their spots in line. It quickly became clear to me how important the simple justice and order of this system was to the guests, many of whom likely haven’t experienced much fairness in other areas of their lives.

Throughout the day, I had the chance to talk with many guests and understand just what the haircuts meant to them. Some were preparing for job interviews and some were just looking forward to a fresh cut after several months or years without one. Many guests walked away with smiles and very visible pride.

The team of incredible volunteer hair stylists worked non-stop down to the very last minute of the event – and beyond. While the stations around us were being packed up, these volunteers kept their scissors moving to serve as many guests as they could. One of these people was a young man – maybe 18 or 19 years old − dressed in a shirt and tie. He had spent most of his time at the event working on his resume and was desperately hoping we could squeeze him in for a haircut so he would be prepared for job interviews. And squeeze him in we did!

Because that is what the Community Resource Exchange is all about – doing whatever we can to help the people who often receive the least help. The people that might have to go another several years without a haircut – or who might be able to use that haircut, the new pair of shoes and a bit of hope to do something different with their lives.


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