Can a haircut change your life?

Joshua Coombes is a London hairdresser who makes a big difference to homeless people's lives. Watch the video to find out more.

Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the exercises. Remember you can read the transcript at any time.

Transcript

Morgan Freeman: I'm in London to meet Joshua Coombes. He's a hairdresser. And he believes small acts of love can make a big impact. Joshua hopes he can help the homeless, not by offering them money or food but by giving them a haircut.

Joshua: The reason I started cutting hair on the street, initially, was actually the magnitude of the problem, like, seeing how big this problem is in each city. It's really hard to know what to do about that. And I think it was from that feeling that I had to impact today. I had to do something positive to make someone smile. And realise that even if you can't solve a problem, actually it's OK to just do your own thing. And for me, that's hairdressing. I love what I do, so it's a great way to be able to give someone confidence.

Joshua: When was the last time you had a haircut? 
Stuart: In November last year. 
Morgan: So January, February. 
Stuart: Five months to March, April.
Morgan: How do you come to be homeless, Stuart? 
Stuart: I broke my hip and they stopped my benefits. At the time, I was like, that's stupid. And I was getting involved with drugs and things. I didn't really care. And next thing I knew, they came round and said, 'Right, you're out.' That was 24th of January 2016 and I've been homeless since. 

Joshua: You see lots of things with homelessness. And there's lots of stereotypes. And really, what I do is try and humanise this issue. Because, as I said, this problem's so big, I think when you bring it down to one person and tell their story, that's a great way to start and a great way for people to understand.

For me, like, one of the most amazing moments is giving someone the mirror at the end of their haircut because it's great to see someone's reaction because they might recognise someone they haven't seen for a few years.

Morgan: Five, four, three, two, one. Ta-da.
Stuart: I'm 20 years younger. Oh my God. 
Morgan: Yeah!
Joshua: Stuart, what do you say?
Stuart: Nobody's going to recognise me.
Joshua: Mate, you're a new man right now.
Stuart: Yeah, thank you.
Joshua: How do you feel?
Morgan: Like a new man.
Stuart: Like a new man.
Joshua: Do you recognize yourself there?
Stuart: Um …

© National Geographic

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Average: 4.4 (8 votes)

Submitted by tegaryudo on Tue, 13/02/2024 - 14:36

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Is homelessness a big problem in your country? What are people trying to do to help?
Yes, in my country homelessness is a big problem. People trying to give them a job so they can life with their money from the job and goverment build flats for them.

Submitted by gosia_czech on Sat, 17/06/2023 - 07:44

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I've seen some homeless people where I live and often I just feel sorry for them. I always wonder why they eventually arrived on the street, and what difficult time they had to experience to land there.

I don't know if people where I live do something about it. There was a time where me and my mom offered to buy some food and something to drink for a man on the street. I remember that when we gave it to him he was really grateful and thanked us.

Submitted by AlexandraMT on Sun, 24/07/2022 - 17:17

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Yes, it is. There are many homeless people in Colombia. A 2019 report says that 9.6% of its population is homeless. These people generally do not have health insurance or food. It is sad.

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 15:10

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Is homelessness a big problem in your country? What are people trying to do to help?
yes, there is a big problem in my city center. many people don't have shelter and food or clothes, I always give food to the homeless people and some money out of my salary. there are many poor people here and it's important we give food at least for living a life.

Submitted by Hector Zavala on Fri, 08/04/2022 - 01:07

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Its an interesting topic and I liked the people that appeared in the video.

Submitted by Salguero1001 on Thu, 07/04/2022 - 19:26

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Living in a developing country, where not all the basic services are provided, homeless people are seen with frequency, I found really important that with your daily life work you can make someone smile.

Submitted by clau25xd on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 18:55

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It is cool to see how he is using his abilities to do something positive. It is so common that society looks at homeless people in a judgy way or assume that they are where they are just because they want to

Submitted by zubeir on Wed, 23/02/2022 - 14:48

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There are many homeless in my country due to economic and bad management problem, but the individuals of my country are making a lot of effort trying to put an end to homelessness by donating money and creating employment for jobless.

The homeless people are alone. The other people can ignore this problem and avoid it.
In my country was a program named Chepe Se Baña, it offers homeless people a safe place to shower

Submitted by Miguelitorico1996 on Sun, 23/01/2022 - 21:27

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I live in Colombia and there are many homeless people because it is a society full of drug use. Fortunately, there are foundations that feed them almost every night, so they don't go hungry all the time.