Local barber provides free haircuts to residents at Kelowna Gospel Mission

Haircuts for the homeless

For Plan B Headquarters general manager and barber Tim Davenport, cutting hair isn't just reserved for the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day.

He's also started volunteering his free time at the Kelowna Gospel Mission, doing haircuts for the less fortunate.

Just two days in, he says it's already been an immense privilege to give back.

"Doing this service and having them get up out of their chair and look you in the eye and shake your hand and say, "thank you for what you're doing," ... there is no greater thank you that you could get than that. 

"We've only been here a couple of times and it's already far surpassed what I would have thought it would have been like, so it's been really nice getting these guys in the chair and chatting with them. You do get a sense that it is truly appreciated, and same with the staff here as well."

Helping out in the local community is something Davenport isn't a stranger to, and he's been toying with the idea of volunteering here in town for a while. 

For the past 13 years, Plan B Headquarters has participated in charitable events such as toy drives for the Mamas for Mamas Foundation, and collecting donations for the Food Bank. 

"That's always been a part of our business mantra, trying to give back to the community, especially one that's done so much for us," says Davenport. 

But this time around, it was a friend and former colleague who inspired him to get involved with haircuts for the homeless. 

"It actually started with a former employee of mine and a friend Alysha. I saw an article about her at a barbershop down in Burnaby and she was doing haircuts for some of the homeless in East Vancouver. She was taking these beautiful portraits before and after shots, and just shedding light on the situation down there. 

"By pure chance, the day after I saw that article, about Alysha doing these cuts down in Vancouver, I actually met the executive director of the Gospel Mission here. I overheard her talking about the services they provide and I was like, I couldn't have written this any better if I tried, so I talked to her and well, here we are."

For Davenport, the initiative is even more special in light of Movember, and the beginning of Men's Health Awareness Month from Nov. 1 to 30. 

He says historically, the focus of the month has been on issues such as prostate cancer, but has evolved in recent years to a broader idea of what men's health looks like, particularly in regards to mental health. 

"One of the biggest spikes we're seeing in deaths and problems for men over the age of 35 is mental health and people struggling day to day, so it felt like this was a great way to address that and bring some focus to it, but still while providing a great service to those that need it and helping these guys out however we can."

Kelowna Gospel Mission executive director Carmen Rempel says the initiative is very special for the residents.

"Lots of people who end up staying here at our shelter in some way have had their dignity reduced and that continues to be reinforced by different things, so the simple dignity of coming in, being able to get your hair done, go away looking better, feeling better - it seems like a small thing, but it can actually be a really big thing." 

When it comes to homelessness, Davenport is committed to changing the stereotypes he believes many people have taken on board, especially in Kelowna. 

"Unfortunately the squeaky wheel does get the grease when it comes to this topic, and I think a lot of people have forgotten there's a whole other side to it - that there are people that actually are trying to get back on their feet and are doing the right things to get there.

"These guys get in the chair and suddenly they're telling you their life story about the jobs they used to work, and businesses they used to own and operate. It was really interesting how so many of them, their story was no different than mine or yours or anyone else's. It's just circumstances that arose that changed their fortune - sometimes self-inflicted, substance abuse issues - there's no shortage of reasons that can lead to that sort of thing ... but again, you get a very different perspective on what's going on here with that."

For information on the Kelowna Gospel Mission and how you can support them this winter, click here

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