Story by Jill Beckel, photos by Joseph Berardi
Explore Philly recently got a chance to talk with Joseph Berardi, a local Philly hair stylist, about his amazing act of generosity that soon turned into much more. Joseph works with his dad and brother at Richard Nicholas Hair Studio and was born and raised in Philly. We think that the world could use more people like Joseph.
What inspired you to first give haircuts to the homeless?
“I have a client that runs SREHUP, a Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia, in Center City. One day we were talking, it happened to be near the holidays, and I thought it would be nice to visit the shelter and give out haircuts. I wanted to make them feel better/special around the holidays, so we set up a day for me and some of my stylists to come in and cut the guys’ hair there.”
How many years have you been cutting hair?
“I have been cutting hair for 20 years now. I started when I was 13. My mom, dad and brother are all hair stylists, so I was exposed to the beauty industry since I was born. It seemed only natural that I would get into it at a very young age. I have been cutting the homeless’ hair for about 5 years now.”
What part of Philly do you mainly focus on?
“I mainly focus on the SREHUP shelter in Center City Philadelphia.”
How many homeless individuals do you think you have given haircuts to? Is it mostly men or women or both?
“I would say I have cut at least 25 people at the shelter, mostly men, but there was a few women over the years as well. Every time we bring a team so we have collectively done maybe 100-150 cuts over the years.”
What are some of the stories you’ve heard from the homeless? Which ones impacted you the most?
“I have heard a lot of stories that have opened my eyes to the struggle some people endure while being in that position. Probably the one that left the most impact on me would be from one of the guys who had third degree burns on his scalp from when he was a child. His older brother poured boiling water on his head when he was around 13 years old and that was when he ran away from his home. That was when he first became homeless. He is now 56 years old and has been homeless ever since. It really just goes to show one horrible thing can impact your whole life.”
How do you give the haircuts (i.e. Do you set up a small area on the street or invite them to come into your shop?)
“We go to the shelter and set up there, that way we can do it all year ’round. We particularly like to go during the holidays which is normally cold here in Philly.”
How many stylists from the area have joined you? What were their reasons for wanting to?
“I have had probably 10 stylists from all over the area join me as they seem to want to give back also. I remember one telling me she wanted to do it because her mom was homeless for a while and she thought it would have been great if someone would have done this for her mom.”
Do you hope to continue to offer this service to the homeless for a long time?
“Yes, we try and do it every three months or so and hope to do it for as long as they need it. We don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It’s a great feeling doing something for someone without expecting anything in return. The people at the shelter are so happy after their cuts that it lifts everyone up.”
Do you have any other additional info available online such as a social media page, etc. where people can find you?
“We have both Instagram and Facebook pages:”