Sherry O’Brien cutting hair at Hair by Ahsile for homeless people from Tent City and Safe Harbor in 2013
BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — If you’re homeless, a shampoo and haircut can represent more than just basic grooming; it could possibly elevate a person’s self-respect and restore their self-esteem. With minutes in a hairdresser’s chair, they are offered hope and possibly re-entry into society.
Anthony J. Jones and wife Lynda Kemp-Jones have been addressing that need by offering free haircare services to the homeless twice a year. Their 2017 MLK Day of Service grant will be used to help continue this valuable and much-needed assistance for people who are less fortunate.
In 2006 Jones and his wife purchased Hair by Ahsile LLC Hair Salon and wanted to find a way to give back to the community.
“The Lord laid it on my heart to give free haircuts,” said Anthony.
First they partnered with Project Homeless Connect, which offered free haircuts at a yearly event, but Anthony wanted to do more. The Joneses moved forward and started their own project entitled “Free Haircuts for the Homeless.”
In 2012, that venture evolved into their own foundation named Ebyone, which is Hebrew for needy. Anthony’s sister Brenda Gilbert is now the owner of Hair by Ahsile, and the salon is still the location of this bi-yearly event.
For the fifth year, the salon will provide free shampoo, haircuts, basic manicures and shaves on the actual Day of Service. Services will be available for men, women and children. The salon will have approximately 10-23 volunteer students from local cosmetology schools to help service as many clients as possible in a timely manner.
Gilbert, along with Ahsile stylist and barbers Catina Dickens, David Jones and Delbert Jones, will donate their expertise and time to this event, which usually average 50-75 people.
In the days leading up to the event, Gilbert and the Joneses will reach out to Pinellas Hope, The Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul homeless shelters to identify people who are in need of their services.
“If no transportation is available, we go and pick them up ourselves,” said Anthony, who is grateful to Pastor Deborah Hill of New Hope of Glory Ministries for providing a van for free to assist them with transportation.
With a master’s degree in mental health counseling, Anthony feels that the free services offered make a positive impact in the lives of others. He explained that some people taking advantage of their services are going on job interviews and can’t afford the cost of a trip to the salon.
“I think it’s important to the community because anyone can be homeless at any time,” he concluded.