East Ayrshire Council has agreed to a grant of £75,000, which East Ayrshire Churches Homelessness Action (EACHA) will use to provide haircuts and other services for homeless people.

Hairdressers and barbershops have a history of being important to a community’s social life, providing a space for friendly chats, community action and public debate.

So, the idea of a mobile hairdresser who can also help those who are struggling with homelessness has a strong precedent.

The service also seeks to make more people aware of homelessness in the authority.
A similar programme set up in Peterborough, Essex was praised for its impact earlier this year.

In its bid for funds from the Whitelee Extensions Renewable Fund, EACHA explained the purpose of the community outreach initiative.

It said: “The Community Barber/Hairdresser is a community initiative based on research and discussion with residents across the East Ayrshire area.

“The project will deliver a high-end mobile barber and hairdressing vehicle that will offer a range of quality stylish hairdressing services to attract and suit all ages.

“The vehicle will provide an inviting, safe, comfortable space for community members to attend to have their haircut.”

While the hairdressing may be the main pull of the service, it provides a door to a range of other vital services.

The application continued: “The vehicle will be will be fitted with quality equipment including a barista bean to cup coffee station and customers will be treated to a wellbeing experience throughout their appointment.

“The experience will create a safe environment for local community customers to discuss and fertilise new ideas which will enrich community wellbeing, community cohesion and community spirit.

“The staff within the project will be trained active listeners who will be able to signpost customers toward support from local providers.

“Local services will use the project as a mobile engagement platform where connections, advice and support will be offered and developed.”

A total of 20 sites up and down East Ayrshire are expected to be part of the service timetable, covering both larger towns and outlying villages.

Each site will get a full day of appointments every month. There will be no set fee for haircuts but a small donation will be encouraged to contribute to the ongoing running costs of the project.

The group says the project will be ‘ideal for cross-pollination of community ideas and support and encourage inter-town partnerships.”

The project was initiated by the new Wellbeing team within Police Scotland who have actively engaged with a range of service providers and funders within East Ayrshire.

The task of setting up the service is not cheap. The group expect to spend almost £170,000 in the first year, including £95k on a fully equipped van, and £60k on wages and national insurance.

The annual running costs for future years is estimated at around £72k, with the group saying that feedback from other external funders had been positive. and they were confident that they could secure funding for the initial three year period.

East Ayrshire Council’s Grants Committee agreed to the grant of £75k, with conditions related to final project costs and publicity.