Cuts, trims and grins shine at Reflections

Ashley Clark assisted Kendall Sandoval in giving a fresh cut to Scott Powers and other attendees at the Haircut for the Homeless event.

Reflections Salon owner Gin­ger Rich kneeled before Christy Gillette and looked her in the eyes.

“I’m totally honored to cut your hair,” Rich said.

Rich complimented the straw­berry blonde undertone of Gil­lette’s damp hair as she combed out the freshly washed strands and suggested a trim to remove the split ends— she did not point out the gray coming in, nor ask how the woman came to live on the streets of Lakeside.

Gillette, like other customers in the shop, had turned up for the fourth annual Haircut For the Homeless event organized by Rich. The event went well be­yond offering a trim and a shave to anyone in need.

The bright shop on Maine Av­enue was filled with the usual signs of a salon on a bustling Sunday morning: the sudden blast of hairdryers, warm wa­ter running in the wash basins, the scent of shampoo, laughter. However, in place of the usual chatter between stylists and cli­entele, there were gentle conver­sations initiated by volunteers trying to reach the homeless on a personal level and connect them with local services.

“As a child, I grew up home­less in foster care and was home­less off and on until I was 21. Instead of being sad about the past, I decided to change my journey I was on. I wanted to become a hairstylist and decided I was going to own my own busi­ness. Somebody believed in me, just like I want to do for these patrons. It’s my prayer and hope to give hope to the homeless. We’ve come together with re­sources so they might be able to change their path, change their journey,” Rich said.

Outside the salon, long tables stretched in front of neighboring businesses, lined with food and donations.

Volunteer Josh Owens ges­tured to the piles of snacks. “We’ve got food, treats, totes, socks, personal hygiene prod­ucts, dog food, just about every­thing,” Owens said.

To his right, Volunteer Ar­lene McClendon asked a home­less gentleman about his size in jeans, then poked through the neatly categorized piles of do­nated clothing to help find him a clean pair of pants.

She said the event is like nothing else in the community.

“When I heard about this, I thought: I’m on it. This is amaz­ing. I am so honored to be a part of this today,” McClendon said.

McAlister Outreach Manager Bradley Russell measured at­tendees with a glance, recogniz­ing some and introducing him­self anew to others. “Some people come up because I get out into the community and they’ve met me. I’ve had a few ask: ‘If I were to get into treatment, how long would it take,’ and I’m always honest with them. We need to have real con­versations,” Russell said.

To his left, county of San Di­ego Health and Human Services Licensed Mental Health Clinician Joann Scott had promi­nently placed a bowl of laven­der trimmings tied with purple bows, a gentle lure for anyone needing a reason to initiate a conversation about the stacks of flyers printed with resources laid out on the table.

“I grow lavender at home and started bringing it to different work events because people walk over and ask about it. It gets the conversation going,” Smith said.

Lead Case Manager at McAl­lister Institute Claudia Fallow was less subtle in her outspoken frustration. Her voice took on a feisty yet maternal tone as she glanced past Volunteer Jamie Distefano pouring barbicide into a large pan used for disinfecting salon tools. She gestured to Scott Powers smiling with his eyes closed, relaxing as Kendall San­doval professionally trimmed his hair.

“People get so hopeless. We need more affordable housing, more shower programs, safe parking programs. Let’s say you get a chance to shower once a month— how inhumane is that? How are you going to go through life like that or make a better life for yourself? You can’t,” Fallow said.

Rich chimed in:

“Well, one person today al­ready talked to me about going to detox while I cut their hair and I’m so grateful for the op­portunity to have that conversa­tion,” Rich said.

Back outside, Torrey Pines Church and Surf Ministry Out­reach Instructor Denise Gra­ham sat in an olive green shirt printed with ‘Semper Fi’ on its back, a deliberate yet unspoken way to inform anyone walking up to the tables that she has ex­perience with the military. Gra­ham flashed a bright smile and leaned in as she warmly chatted about the outreach program she works with in an effort to ad­dress addiction and depression.

“We help military operators who are transitioning by teach­ing them how to surf. It isn’t really about the surfing, of course, it’s about the connection, cre­ating a community of support for those who are on the edge. There’s no conditions to show­ing up— active duty, retirees, recently separated from the mil­itary— it doesn’t matter,” Gra­ham said.

Russell wandered over, con­sistently interested in getting to know everyone in the community including fellow volunteers. He smiled and jutted his chin out in acknowledgement of Bria McClain, seated with informa­tion on hand from the Family Health Centers of San Diego.

“This lady is amazing, do you know she will give rides to people just so they can get to a doctor’s appointment?” Russell asked.

Rich took a break from her chair to circle through the vol­unteers outside, then took a breather in the doorway of the shop, absorbing the result of her outreach. She said that she was humbled by everyone wanting to help pull off the event, but wishes the community would do more.

“We need more events like this, public events, getting peo­ple involved. Not only are the homeless being touched but the volunteers as well. I want people to ask themselves what they can do to improve their community,” Rich said.