Pampering hand massages, rejuvenating haircuts and chef-inspired meals were all part of last Sunday’s “Haircuts for Homeless” Santa Rosa event organized by the Sonoma MBA Alumni Forum and the Sonoma State Graduate and Executive Programs, School of Business and Economics.
The Alumni Forum partnered with Catholic Charities and the Leading Edge Salon for the meals and haircuts, which were given at the Samuel L. Jones Hall shelter on Finley Avenue in Santa Rosa from 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Karen Garratt, senior stylist at Leading Edge salon, an Aveda concept salon with botanical inspired products, estimates that she and her team provided over a dozen haircuts for those at the shelter and event.
“We gave about 20-25 haircuts for men and women. It was just a basic dry haircut,” Garratt explained. “We didn’t have access to shampoo bowls, so we asked if they can come with clean hair if possible, because I know they have showers at the shelter, if not, that’s OK too. So we also had hair products and dry shampoo.”
Garratt says they had six stylists at the community event as well as the owner of Leading Edge, Paula Lindsey, who also helped out with the haircuts. The salon also provided a barber for beard trimming and Garratt’s colleague, Rosa, provided hand massages while clients sat back and got their hair trimmed.
“It was just quite a pampering day,” Garratt said.
And while something as trivial as a haircut may not be beneficial for those who are homeless in the long-run, Garratt said that the simple act can boost confidence and provide human connection, something that can provide great happiness to people who may be struggling just to survive each day.
“I think something as simple as a haircut has such a great impact on their self-esteem and it is something so easy to do. I think self-care is something that first goes out the window… so having that self-confidence can impact their life,” Garratt said.
Garratt said this was her first time participating in a “haircuts for homeless” event, however, one of her colleagues at the salon has taken part in providing her barber services at a similar event and came back with stories of how successful it was. This was then the impetus for Leading Edge to decide to provide their services at Sunday’s event.
“Our barber has participated in similar events. So she came back to us and talked about how amazing it was and so we wanted to get on board too,” Garratt said.
Adrienne Lauby, who runs the advocacy group, “Homeless Action,” said she believes the event was a good idea and said that it is important for people to connect with one another, whether it is over a meal or a haircut.
“People like to feel good and things like haircuts make them feel good, we like to feel that way,” Lauby said regarding the haircuts. “And I think anything that gives dignity and connection with those who are homeless and those who aren’t is good. And it is good to get a really great hot meal if you are scraping by.”
Following the haircuts, chef-influenced gourmet meals were served to around 100 shelter residents. “The Samuel L. Jones Hall provides meals, but a chef-inspired meal sounds good. Everyone enjoys a good meal, I enjoy a good meal once and awhile,” Lauby mused.
Aaron Inman, chair of the Sonoma MBA Alumni Forum and CFO and Winemaker for Lucky Rock Wine Company said in a statement that the forum and SSU wanted to provide this event for those in need because it not only creates a positive impact, but also brings the community together.
“After the devastating October wildfires, we know that many members of our community are in need and even more are looking for ways to give back… Partnerships with local businesses and community organizations allow us to increase our positive impact and bring more services to those in need. It’s an opportunity to support the community that has given so much to us,” Inman said in a statement.
And the Santa Rosa homeless population isn’t the only community in need. According to Shirley Melikian Armbruster of the Sonoma State Office of Strategic Communications, homelessness is also pervasive at SSU.
“Overall, 10.4 percent of Sonoma State students reported being homeless one or more times in the last 12 months based on the combined Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education definitions,” Armbruster wrote. “This figure is slightly lower than the 10.9 percent average for the CSU system as a whole.”
Catholic Charities, along with the City of Santa Rosa, the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and the county help run Samuel L. Jones Hall, one of the largest homeless shelters in Northern California. They estimate serving around 188 people per day with food, case management, housing counselling and medical aid.