Over the past few years, homelessness in Chelmsford has become an ever-growing issue. While charities such as CHESS are working hard to look after those sleeping rough, hairdresser Scott Staines took things into his own hands to help serve the suffering members of his community.
32-year-old Staines, a former Moulsham High School student, has been working in the hair industry since leaving the Chelmsford-based Secondary School, culminating in 20 years of experience in hairdressing.
But, a long-term addiction to Heroin and Cocaine turned Scott’s life upside-down as he was forced to living on the streets. Therefore, Scott believes it is important to aid the homeless through the donation of materials such as food and drink – therefore preventing them from maintaining their addictions.
“The thing is, they’ll spend money on crack and heroin. Because they are low, they are addicted to those drugs.” he said.
“As an ex-addict myself, I’m three years clean now, but I was a cocaine addict for the best part of seventeen years. It led me onto the street. The addiction to that dark place.
“I worked through the steps and it restored my faith in God and Jesus and it has helped me massively. Thankfully I’m three years clean and I now lead a recovery course at Skylark Church and we’re hoping that we can do similar at CHESS.”
Having recovered from his addiction to drugs, Scott now owns the UK’s only premiere, private and exclusive Men’s hair grooming treatment service.
As a result of his first-hand experience of living rough, Scott now uses his skills as an experienced barber to help those who are affected and was first inspired by one of his close friends, but it took a while before he began to make an impact.
“I’d seen a video of a guy doing it in LA and obviously I’d been aware of other people in the industry across the country do haircuts for the homeless.” Scott explained.
“I was homeless myself about eleven or twelve years ago for just a few days but it was enough to realise what it is like for them. One morning I was speaking to a client and I’d been advertising doing haircuts at CHESS but on the first week they had no-one booked in.
“I was a bit gutted as I really wanted to help them out. But, it turns out, that they had not actually told anyone. They had put the notice up but apparently no-one reads the notices.
“I was chatting with my friend and he really inspired me to do it. He said ‘Why don’t you just grab a stall and go to the High Street’, I thought I might as well do that as I have a free afternoon.
“That’s when I came across the first person who I could help, Dave. I asked him if he would like a haircut, he kindly agreed and that was how it started. When I was doing Dave’s hair, I met Min Yong and and Amanda who run ‘Helping the Homeless’ on a Sunday night.
“They told me about what they do and I thought ‘I might as well team-up with them as it does not interfere with my work and ever since then I’ve been going out with them every Sunday night.
“It’s worked really well so far.
“I’ve only just started in the last month or so. I don’t know where we would do it in the winter because of the darkness and weather. But if there was somewhere inside that we could do it then I’d definitely continue doing it.”
While the topic of homelessness is by no means an issue that affects just Chelmsford, the general trend of attitudes towards rough sleepers is seen to be positive.
Scott explains that it’s not just individuals who are supportive of his work but local businesses are beginning to support his efforts too. Having opened around the same time that Scott began cutting hair for the homeless, he praised the generosity of the family-run restaurant, ‘The Works’.
“I always get encouragement from people, it’s mostly nice. Some people probably question it but most of the time it’s positive encouragement. I don’t remember a bad response so far.
“The Works on the High Street have been so good. Mark, the Manager, has often brought coffee out for us. They’ve never complained about what I do.
“There is the window ledge for me to put all my equipment and they have been so accommodating. I’m incredibly grateful for that.” he continued.
“All we are looking for now is somewhere to wash their hair.
“I’ve done it before at McDonalds but they’re not to happy. They’re just not happy as it’s their restaurant and they don’t want it happening there.
Looking forward though, Scott hopes that people will begin taking their own action to assist those less fortunate than themselves. Despite living on the streets, he feels that each person has a skill that – should they be given the opportunity – they would utilise in order to better their lives.
Whether it be as a builder, decorator or another trade, the most important thing is to assist those living rough by getting them onto the first step on the road to recovery.
“What amazed me most of all is how a lot of the homeless have trade skills. Only one of the people I’ve come across has not really worked. All the others have worked. One guy I did was a master decorator and at one point he had seven people working for him.
“He came home one evening and his wife was in bed with another man. One thing led to another and he ended up in prison for beating the man up.
“It can happen as quickly as that.
“The one thing I’d recommend is people use their skills to help others. I had a beautician come up to me on Sunday for example. I can’t do all the haircuts so it would be amazing if other hairdressers could give up one day a month to give up some of their time.”
You can donate money to Helping the Homeless, the charity who Scott works alongside, in order to help fund helping those sleeping rough in Chelmsford and Essex by heading to their Facebook page here.