Hairdresser Eddie llic works in a busy city salon and looks forward to a day off during the week. But you won’t find him having a lie-in or playing computer games in his down time. For that’s the day Eddie packs up his portable chair, checks his scissors are sharp and takes to the streets of Bath to provide free haircuts for the homeless. The people he helps, he says, are his medicine. A constant reminder of how very different his own life could have been.
This 24-year-old knows only too well what it’s like to hit rock bottom. Three years ago he was spiralling out of control in a haze of drugs and alcohol. He had been in trouble with the police, stolen money from his parents and been suspended from his job as an apprentice at BA1 Hair in Bath because of his erratic behaviour and repeated disappearances. Eddie says he had been in and out of trouble generally since his school days where he was also suspended. He had started smoking weed when he was 14.
“I was wild. I liked getting high,” says Eddie. “Then it was cocaine and alcohol.”
But one day, when he was 21, he says, he had had enough of his chaotic life and the madness that went with it. “I woke up one morning and I knew I was sick and tired of my life and I wanted to do something about it,” says Eddie. “Luckily for me I had all the support just waiting for me to make that decision. My parents, even though they were at the end of their tether, were there for me. And my amazing boss, Philip Thompson at BA1 Hair was prepared to have me back at work once I had sorted myself out. I had people around me who saw the goodness in me.”
“But I know others are not so lucky and don’t have that support. That’s why I offer my skills and services free of charge one day a week. It’s me giving something back and hoping to make even a small difference to the lives of people who are struggling in society. “I know what hopeless feels like. The people I help come from all backgrounds, all walks of life. They are just people like everyone else. They haven’t chosen to live like that, but life has dealt them a bad hand.”
Every Wednesday Eddie spends the morning at Julian House in Bath, a charity where homeless people can go to wash and eat and get some proper sleep. There are also vets there to treat their dogs. Most of us don’t even think twice about getting a haircut but for people on the street it is way down their list of priorities.”
“It’s just amazing how much it can change the way they think and feel. It makes me feel good to see that I can do one little thing and I see how that makes them feel about themselves,” says Eddie.
But conscious of the fact that not everyone in need attends the centre, Eddie then takes to the streets of the city in the afternoon. “Sometimes people can be quite shy and don’t want their hair cut in public. I always offer to go somewhere out of the way if they want or I give them my number and arrange to meet them where they feel more comfortable,” he says.
Eddie can fit in around 10-12 haircuts on his day off. Sometimes people want to talk and other times they don’t. “Because I have been there myself I have a deep understanding of addiction. I get that desperation and loneliness, so I take my lead from them,” he says. “If they want to talk I tell them I have had issues too. I like to think it helps.”
Eddie describes his life now as ‘totally amazing.’ “I have got a lovely girlfriend, my own place to live and I got the chance to go and work out in Dubai recently which was awesome. I am living a clean life and I have got my family back. I have been extremely lucky. If I hadn’t got that second chance I don’t even want to think about how low I could have sunk.”
“So to go out on the streets and do something for those worse off, I feel is the very least I can do to put something back and it is also a constant reminder for me. It makes me feel grateful for the life I now have.”
Interview by Sue Smith for Suspended Coffees