Jason Schneidman believes a haircut can change your life. That's why he's cutting hair for the homeless.
Schneidman, 50, has been cutting hair since he was 14 years old and always had a passion for using style to improve people’s confidence.
“The first time I [cut hair] I thought the whole transformation was amazing,” Schneidman said. “I’ve always been into the reward of making people change.”
Schneidman battled addiction throughout his adult life and went through rehabilitation four times before getting sober 16 years ago. As he was battling addiction, he also experienced homelessness.
“I was homeless for two years,” Schneidman said. “When I was in the streets and addicted to drugs I was very alone and felt very disconnected.”
Once Schneidman became sober, he worked with recovering addicts while also trying to maintain his career as a hairstylist.
“I was taught I had to be of service [to other addicts] to keep my sobriety,” Schneidman said. “I was working a lot and wasn’t feeling good about the work I was doing to give back.”
Schneidman was hired to do hair on an extreme makeover show where one of the recipients was a homeless man who was also an alcoholic.
“That one really stuck with me,” Schneidman said. “One day it came to me like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’”
Schneidman said he and his business partner went out that day with a backpack and cordless clippers and began asking homeless people on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard if they needed haircuts.
Now, five years later, what started with two men is now a movement to help the homeless. Schneidman started a nonprofit organization called THEMENSGROOMER. He and his team host major events in Venice, California, where the homeless can get haircuts, food and socks donated from people all over the world who learned about Schneidman’s work on social media.
“I cut celebrities' hair and I cut homeless people’s hair,” Schneidman said. “When they leave, they’re walking different, with confidence. From celebrities to homeless – it’s the same feeling.”
- 3November 15, 2019
While Schneidman has always loved giving haircuts, for him the most important part of his work is the ability to speak with people on the streets, many of whom are addicts.
“Nurses and doctors and psychologists can’t help addicts like an addict can help an addict,” Schneidman said. “I go right up to disease. I take it head on.”
“It’s intimidating to see people who are homeless,” Schneidman said. “People look scary. They look dirty. They’re still people. They’re people’s sons and daughters who have lost their way. They’re not a lost cause.”
Schneidman hopes haircuts allow his homeless clients to see their potential.
“I think it really shows them that they are human,” Schneidman said. “They can make their way back.”
Schneidman’s ultimate goal is to set up a warehouse in Southern California where members of the homeless population can assist him in making his hair care products and have a steady job.
“So many of these people want to work. They want a purpose in life,” Schneidman said. “My goal is to have a place where they can have a shower, their own locker and if they stay on payroll for three months I will match it and find them a place to live.”
He added, “The most rewarding part at the end of the day is that feeling of gratitude of knowing that I might be able to changes somebody’s life.”