Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Craig, and I founded the Short, Back & Sidewalks not-for-profit back in 2015 alongside local barbers Justin Howley and James Howe, from Weston’s Barbershop in Perth. I’m originally from Glasgow and have been living in Australia for around 13 years.
What is the concept behind SBSW?
To provide free haircuts for members of the community experiencing homelessness and those at the risk of experiencing homelessness.
Having a fresh haircut is an unaffordable luxury for people struggling to eat on a daily basis or have a safe and warm place to sleep each night. Our service also gives people the opportunity to have some non-judgemental and warm hearted human contact, whether it be with our barber team or volunteers, the ability to have a conversation with another person is something we take for granted, but for some of our clients it’s something they may not get to experience all too often.
How does it work?
At the moment we are focusing on being present in venues that are most comfortable for our clients. So for example, our team will notify service providers such as St. Barts House, The Salvation Army, Passages, Uniting Care Australia, RUAH or Kensington Street Transitional Accommodation a few weeks beforehand, and then turn up ready to go.
Our events started back in early 2015, cutting around five clients in car parks around the Perth CBD; however, now that we’ve become more well known in amongst the local street present community and that our clients are now more comfortable and aware of the service we provide, we can expect around 50 – 60 clients at any given cut each month.
What is your full-time job?
I currently work in Sydney as a Senior Technical Officer for a company called AECOM. The job involves designing things like drains, sewers, cables and trenches – things you don’t really see all that often, but they’re definitely there!
How many barbers are involved?
We’ve gone from having two barbers in the very beginning from Westons to now having a team that consists of around seven or eight different barber shops from Scarbrabarbra, His Lid, Hilly Billy Barber, Uncle Joe’s, Dandy Barber Co, Stanford Barber and The Milk Barber.
How do you hope to see it grow?
We hope to get SBSW running in every city across Australia. I’ve recently moved to Sydney for work and also to start SBSW over here, so this will be the next step.
How can others help?
You can help by following us on Instagram, which is @shortbackandsidewalks or by getting on to our website and making a donation at www.shortbackandsidewalks.com
What benefits do you see your service providing to the community?
Since starting, we’ve seen so many benefits that our service (alongside loads of other services) is able to provide to the community. We always say that it’s the most simple of things that make the largest amount of difference, and for us it’s just talking to people and giving folk the opportunity to share their story and to have some positive human connection.
A lot of the things you hear these days surrounding homelessness tends to be negative; however, the clients we meet are quite often some of the most warm hearted, positive people we’ve spoken to in a while, which really does say a lot.
Something that stands out surrounds a regular client of ours called Ian, who we’ve been cutting since back in 2015. Ian is also a member of On My Feet www.onmyfeet.org.au which is a program working to combat the nation’s rising homeless population by getting people out there exercising and involved back into society. Groups meet three nights a week, and people who prove they can show up to each session are sometimes given the opportunity of employment and education too.
Thanks to Ian’s determination, he now has a part-time job and works with a food charity. Added to this, he recently finished not only the Perth City To Surf event, but travelled over to Melbourne and completed the marathon there as well! You should check out his story; it’s really inspiring! And it also goes to show with the combination of different community services, the possibilities are there for people to start making the necessary steps towards restructuring their lives.