New York City hair stylist Mark Bustos may have the world’s most diverse clientele.
In addition to working at a salon frequented by high-profile customers like Norah Jones and Marc Jacobs, Mark has made a habit of giving free haircuts to the homeless.
He got the idea when he visited family in the Philippines a few years ago and witnessed the poverty there firsthand.
“The haircuts I give in the salon don’t differ at all from the haircuts I give on the street,” Mark says. Approaching each person by saying, “I want to do something nice for you today,” Mark uses his skills to make people look and feel good.
“Street Cuts” is a Fusion original web series that follows Mark as he hits the streets of South Beach in Miami. His goal is simple: to shine a light on the issue of homelessness and inspire viewers to #BeAwesomeToSomebody.
Apache: ‘You lose everybody you love on these streets’
Apache, a Native American originally from Alaska, has been homeless for more than 11 years and has never let anyone cut his hair. During an emotional haircut, Apache addresses the pain of losing friends and loved ones from the streets. The average life expectancy of a homeless person is approximately 50 years, 30 years less than the national average.
Kevin: ‘Minding your own business and they come and get you’
Kevin is a former Philadelphia pizza shop owner who was driven out of business after the rise of fast food franchises in his neighborhood. Police sweeps are one of the biggest challenges he faces living on the streets of Miami. A sweep–a procedure often associated with clearing out tourist-heavy areas–can lead to arrests and a homeless person’s belongings being confiscated or destroyed. Owing to the increased criminalization of homeless people across the country, 74% reported that they did not know of a safe and legal place to sleep, according to a survey by the Western Regional Advocacy Project.
Marcus: ‘Put yourself in my position’
Mark approached Marcus after seeing him looking through a trash can for food. In addition to giving Marcus his first haircut in over 10 years, Mark wanted to treat Marcus to his favorite meal: barbecue. But when Marcus admitted he was diabetic, Mark opted to buy him fruits and eggs instead. More than 40% of homeless people suffer from a chronic disease. In addition to a highly regimented diet, diabetics need to time their meals with the intake of medication, requirements that are often difficult to meet for those not knowing what or when their next meal will be.
Michael: ‘You have no idea’
Michael didn’t know when his next haircut would be, so he decided to shave everything off. “The majority of the experiences that I’ve had with people here has not been too positive,” says Michael, who suffers from cerebral palsy. “But you can’t make sweeping generalizations.” From 1999 to 2012, there were nearly three times as many documented homeless-related hate crimes than hate crimes related to race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity combined. In exchange for his haircut, Michael shared a talent of his own–his lyric-writing and rap skills.