A hairdresser who operates free appointments for the homeless is to receive a Pride of Cork award later this year.
Joseph Byrne who runs Joseph's Hair Salon on Glasheen Road in Cork city, also organises a collection of back to school items, Christmas gifts and Easter eggs for children in a refuge.
The organisers of the award said he “always looks to see what he can do, how he can help and who will benefit most from his ideas.”
“For many years Joseph has been operating a special day of appointments for the long term homeless during Christmas week and when Covid hit he gave out vouchers which could be used once lockdown allowed.
"Joseph has also started a helping hand initiative for parents with children going back to school,” they said.
Mr Byrne has asked for donations of pens, pencils, bags and other items that would help families in need and the tremendous support the initiative has received has seen many deliveries of items to Edel House, who distribute the items.
They added that “Joseph is involved in many other initiatives with many of them privately organised and delivered.”
Mr Byrne also provides free hair cuts for Holy Communion children who come from vulnerable or needy backgrounds.
Vulnerable in society
Joseph says he has found it enormously enriching to help the vulnerable in society in this way.
He stresses that when life is about surviving the elements having your hair washed and styled can have a benefit to your spirit which far outweighs how you look in the salon mirror.
“I had an experience with a homeless man where he got very emotional because he got his hair shampooed.”
Joseph insists that homelessness does not necessarily mean people on the streets. To him the term also applies to individuals in emergency accommodation.
“I was in a place recently where they had three double bunk beds in a tiny room and there was a communal shower. They are people without a home. They might have a roof over their head, but they don't have a home.”
Mr Byrne says one of the great pleasures of the day involves cutting hair for women who are in vulnerable situations. They are not getting their hair styled on a regular basis themselves and are instead ploughing their scant resources in to their kids.
He derives satisfaction from pampering these women. However, he admits you have to bury your feelings of sorrow when you are cutting the hair of youngsters who have been through tough times.
Mr Byrne is currently looking for donations of school uniforms, schoolbags, pencil cases, copies, pencils, books and crayons for children in need.
Donations can be made at the salon on Glasheen Road. The salon can be contacted at https://www.facebook.com/josephshairsalon