Miami-Dade County

Haircuts give homeless reason for thanks

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

This Thanksgiving, Mauricio Novelle is thankful for a fresh, new haircut.

He was among almost 200 homeless men, women and children who received haircuts and trims from volunteers at a Thanksgiving Day event hosted by the Miami Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that provides services for the homeless.

“There’s a lot of people that needed this. It feels great,” said Novelle, 54, as a volunteer buzzed away his uneven locks. “Neediness goes beyond money and food.”

Barbers and hairstylists from a half-dozen South Florida salons and non-profit organizations volunteered at Miami Rescue Mission’s two centers in Overtown to bring a fresh look to many struggling in the midst of the holidays. After getting a new look, volunteers rolled out Thanksgiving meals to the sound of live music.

Charles Collado, who organized the event, said that when he first came to shelter four and a half years ago looking for relief, he found energy in cutting hair for his fellow “brothers.”

“I was the haircut guy,” said Collado, now working as a community liaison for the Miami Rescue Mission. “When people see a homeless person on the street, they may not see the beauty they have inside. So I said, I want to clean them up. Now, they all come here for a meal, a shower, and a shave.”

Vincent Williams, 58, came looking for a new pair of shoes and is walking away a new man.

“I feel like a king,” he said. “I feel sexy.”

About three blocks away at the women’s center, Robin Jean’s curly locks are getting a trim from hairstylist Naylan Alvarez.

“I wasn’t going to get my hair done, but then I saw what she did with my daughter,” said Jean, 56. “It makes the day a little more special, to see that someone cares.”

Alvarez works with Beards and Babes, an organization that brings together beauty professionals and connects them with opportunities to serve those in need.

“People sometimes underestimate how much a haircut can do. Your appearance will either uplift you or bring you down,” Alvarez said.

Women also got facials. Their daughter’s had their nails painted by 11-year-old volunteer Zwaina Heinonen.

“I want them to be happy on Thanksgiving, plus it’s fun,” Heinonen said.

Hairstylist Gus Briand gave new haircuts to a mother and daughter duo, hoping to brighten their holiday.

“A lot of these women have been abused. They forget that they are pretty. That they can be fabulous,” he said. “Beauty should come from the inside out, but it’s good to give them a reminder from the outside.”

Briand cut 12-inches of hair from Vanessa Ramos, who asked for a completely new look. Both Ramos and her daughter Jaleah beamed at their matching bobs.

“It’s wonderful that there are people that can help us feel better from the outside. It really uplifts your spirits,” said Ramos, 21, who has been living at shelter for a month. “Many people can’t be with their families today so they have given us a reason to feel good and be thankful.”

Follow the reporter on Twitter @MelhorL.

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