This Philly barber has taken his compassion for others to a whole new level
Brennon Jones’ Haircuts4Homeless has the streets in a buzz as he is on his first Cutz of Compassion Tour
One month ago, 53-year-old Mathew found himself sharing his story about his unfortunate road to homelessness to an unlikely but kindhearted stranger.
“August 16th makes five years since the day I received a phone call at work that my wife (47) and daughter (8) died in a house fire caused by my neighbors,” he said. “I’ve been alone and homeless ever since.”
That stranger is self-taught traveling barber Brennon Jones, who shared Mathew’s story on Facebook with the hashtag #ItsDeeperThanWeThink.
Haircuts4Homeless, Jones’ own mobile business, sets him on street corners throughout the Philadelphia area providing shape-ups, fades and buzz cuts to homeless men in need.
“A little over a year ago on my way to work I was visiting downtown and a guy asked for some assistance,” Jones said of how he got the encouragement to pursue his passion. “Anything that I could offer, I gave him. I believe I had a banana. I knew that I could’ve done more to help.”
That man’s need affected Jones’ life so much that he decided to take to the streets and give back the best way he knew how, using his God-given talents.
“I think it was Jan. 15, ” Jones said. “We had some good weather, so it was worth a try to go out and find somebody who wanted a haircut. I found a guy and cut his hair, and that one haircut turned into, I think, three haircuts that day.”
Jones took to Facebook Live with his mission, and the video generated more than 2.4 million views by the next morning.
“At that moment I decided to continue to do it,” Jones explained. “Maybe twice a week and I got [it] together. The homeless individuals who I connected with and the stories that I heard, and the things that they told me, their struggles. I quit my job, and I kind of started doing this full time. It’s been an amazing and humbling experience.”
Originally from Chester, Pennsylvania, Jones and his family moved to Philadelphia in 2015. The 29-year-old left his job as a stylist for a men’s wardrobe company to pursue his passion, and he has now taken his generosity on tour. He travels to cities and states with his Cutz of Compassion Tour, which he started on May 28.
“When I first started, I received random support from all over the world,” Jones said. “A lot from the area, and other barbers and hairstylists. They were asking how could they be a part, and it’s a little dangerous, me cutting in the middle of the street. I didn’t want to have other guys come and do what I do on a normal daily basis, so I came up with this idea of an event called Cutz of Compassion. I formed a team of volunteers — about eight barbers, and I think it was two hairstylists — and we did a big event where we cut over 90 heads. We gave out bagged lunch, toiletries, we played games, the whole nine yards. The event was a success. I decided if it’s needed here in Pennsylvania, I’m quite sure it’s needed in other places. So that’s why I came up with the idea to take this event and go on the road. This Cutz of Compassion Tour, we have seven cities lined up.”
Haircuts4Homeless is self-funded and thrives on donations.
“I make absolutely nothing from this,” Jones said. “When I’m out cutting on a day-to-day basis, I do have guys who pass by who donate. I call it my donation box. I take a donation box, and I pour it back into Haircuts4Homeless. So twice or three times a week, depending on how much is generated from the donation box, I go and make bagged lunches and I make resting bags with some storage food, and pack some things that they need to live and take care of themselves. That’s what I use the donations for. I’m not a nonprofit like most companies in the state; everything comes from my pocket and from my heart.”
Jones’ talent for haircutting comes naturally.
“I taught myself how to cut hair,” Jones said. “I was about, maybe, 17 or 18 when I got into cutting hair. My uncle had a barbershop, and I would go to his shop. We had about 12 barbers at the time. It was about what they did and their smiles on their faces after they got a fresh haircut. It changes their whole mindset with just a haircut. So, if we imagine what it does for the homeless or the less fortunate.”
Jones, a father of four, says his inspiration comes from his wife and children and the countless individuals whose lives he has touched along the way.
“That’s where I get the job and inspiration to continue with the mission of giving back certain love. I love that the haircut is just a plus, but my job is more so to uplift, oftentimes to forget about, or talk to the kinds [of people] that we don’t talk to. My job is to put a smile on their face, and I choose to do it through a haircut.”
On Tuesday in Kansas City, Missouri, Jones and his team gave haircuts to 108 individuals. He said the most rewarding part is knowing that just a simple gesture such as giving a guy a haircut could change how he views society.
“A lot of guys are down on their luck. A lot of them have given up on people. They don’t ask us. … A lot of people have written them off. So knowing that, just conversing with them, making them look good, making them feel good. They would be so excited to see me. One guy he came up to me and said, ‘Listen, because of this haircut I was able to get a job.’ Another guy, I was cutting his hair a few months ago, and because I was on Facebook Live his mother happened to just come across me cutting his hair. She actually thought that he was dead. She hadn’t spoken to him for the last seven years and thought that he was dead. She had totally moved on with life and just so happened to see him getting his hair cut on Facebook Live, and she came and picked him up.
“It’s stories like that are the most enduring for me. Knowing that I’m more than they got. I’m working for them.”
Jones’ ambition for giving to others in need doesn’t stop here.
“We have so many things that we want to do. Again, the haircut is a plus. Our tagline is giving back for the love. We are constantly coming up with innovative ways to share love. We want to open up a male shelter at some point within the next two years. We want to open up a fashion line more geared to the homeless. We want to be able to open up different businesses to give them jobs and offer them jobs, and things like that. We want to open up a Haircuts4Homeless barbershop. We want to figure out ways to help those who are homeless now and hopefully put them in a position to never have to say that they’re homeless again. The future looks extremely bright, and we want to change how society looks at those who are less fortunate.”