Short, Back + Sidewalks
We had a chat to Craig, the heart and brains behind the amazing project that is Short, Back & Sidewalks – a non-for-profit organisation that offers haircuts to those in need. Free of charge. Free of judgement.
Okay so I know a lot of other people around town, love this notion you have come up with… what specifically sparked the idea originally?
After doing a bit of volunteering at soup kitchens around Perth I noticed there was a major gap in the area covering personal appearance for people in need, or experiencing homelessness. A lot of the time the primary focus of a service provider like St. Vinnies or The Salvation Army is to take care of aspects such as shelter, food or clothing. All of these things are obviously hugely essential, so perhaps making sure someone is able to get a fresh haircut is something that would be pushed to the back of the queue. And that’s when we come in.
Have you faced any difficulties or obstacles getting SB&SW going? What?
We’ve only had one individual from a government department (that will remain unnamed) contact us with an apparent complaint about what it was we were doing. But I don’t actually believe there were any issues in the first place, probably just that they were being nosy or it was a bit quiet in work that week. And or they felt that they didn’t have control of something that was going on under their noses which they didn’t know when and where it was happening. That being said it’s not exactly an illegal underworld operation, it’s just a bunch of people getting together and using the skills they have to help another group of people that are in need.
Do you think it should be easier to start a non for profit/charity/do nice things around town?
Having just been officially registered as a Not for profit, I can attest to it being a long and painstaking process to set up. But I know it’s that way for loads of different laws and reasons which are put in place to maintain full financial transparency and basically to ensure people aren’t screwing the system.
However as for just getting a group together and doing a nice thing? It’s actually really easy, and something that people should be doing a lot more of. So perhaps instead of making up a group page on social media dedicated to complaining about a new shwanky bar that won’t let you in if you’re wearing trainers, people should be making pages to help refugees or the Indigenous community, and using these mediums and also their energy to more positive use.
How is the support from the community around the Perth CBD?
The backing from the Perth community has been mind-blowing. We’ve had people like Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan and City Of Vincent Mayor John Carey come down to our events, also received contact from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Vice Captain of The Perth Wildcats Greg Hire his came down to support us too. Alongside this we’ve been lucky enough to engage with members of the community who have heard about our project and wanted to get involved in some way, such as delivering handmade soaps and beard oils for us to give out, or being sent Street Swags over from Brisbane to give to our clients so they can have cover at night when they are sleeping rough.
We’ve also recently been involved in helping a large amount of school students with their assignments for Uni or High School. The latest being a Year 12 student from John XXIII College called Arabelle O’Rourke, who had seen our project and wanted to incorporate it into her final art project. Arabelle had asked permission to recreate an image of a client called Warren that was originally taken by Perth producer and photographer Ta-ku. The result is a stunning piece created on a piece of ply and the modest material of charcoal to express the authentic and raw emotion of that particular moment (Photos included).
Obviously the success of the project lies in the encouragement of self esteem for these individuals, what is a memorable moment for you?
We’ve had loads of brilliant moments so far. One that comes to mind would be when we all met a client called Craig who is currently being housed at St. Barts House in East Perth, who is also arguably one of the world’s biggest Kiss fans. We actually went on Channel 9 News with Craig, who had agreed to come on with us and have his hair cut. So as he was sat there happily having a new trim as the cameras rolled, casually talking to news presenter Lisa Fernandez and decked out from head to toe in Kiss gear, we all looked at each other and said ‘Right OK we need to get someone for this guy for doing this’. So we managed to make a few phone calls and luckily enough through an amazing person called Brendan Clarke who we met along the way, who also heads up his own charity called Health Hope Zambia, and who is also a close personal friend of Gene Simmons from Kiss, we were able to get Craig a hand signed Kiss shirt, courtesy of Mr. Gene Simmons himself. And another lovely part to this story is that Craig’s Mother had seen the news story on telly and as a result had got the money together to buy him a ticket to go and see Kiss when they recently came to play in Perth.
Dreams? Anything else in the works? What can we/others do to help?
We plan to take the Short, Back & Sidewalks charity around Australia and eventually the world. The model we have is really simple, and one that aligns both service providers and people in need, directly to barbershops. We are in the process of making Short, Back & Sidewalks available for women who are in need too, so that’s one of the next major ‘goings on’.
If people would like to help out they can get onto our website which is www.shortbackandsidewalks.com and donate directly to ensure a person in need is able to receive a free cut.
Also all of the contact details are there if you are a barbershop who would like to get on board.
You can also come meet the clients by following our Instagram at @short_back_and_sidewalks.