Barber who used to be homeless hopes to help, inspire others by giving free haircuts

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 18:20:15-05

Sometimes getting a haircut is just part of the routine. Other times, you need a fresh start. The Cosgrove Center in Downtown Cleveland was giving free haircuts with the hopes of inspiring others.

On Monday, more than 50 homeless people received free haircuts thanks to Waverly Willis, the owner of Urban Kutz. Willis said he himself used to be homeless and now he wants to give back. He said when he didn't have a place to go during the holidays he turned to folks at the Cosgrove Center.

“These people were my family, they took the time to feed me and encourage me,” said Willis. “Lending an ear, and giving me positive instructions. People that came down here for the meetings were examples of how to live a structured life. Someone did it to me, so it’s only natural for me in my character to pay it forward.”

Some in the homeless community said it's difficult to find a job while living in a homeless shelter.

“I had a guy fill out my application, and he saw my address and threw it right in the garbage,” Christina Habeeb said.

Students and staff at La Barberia Institute of Hair also gave free haircuts.

“Sometimes a haircut actually makes a difference in someone's life, it actually puts a smile on their face,” said barber student Ebony Banks.

Barber instructor Harold Corrothers, who affectionately called Waverly Willis “Big Wave,” said the haircuts can also help the homeless find jobs.

“You don't want to go into an interview with a bad haircut, so you want to get a haircut to help you out and get a job and ace that interview,” Corrothers said.

Willis said he also continuously gives back to remind himself where he came from.

“Even though this place was instrumental in my recovery, I definitely don't want to start over again, and so this is what's going to keep me humble and keep me focused on my recovery,” said Willis.

Willis said he is now 13 years sober. Since then, he has opened two successful barbershops and is now working on opening a salon.

When News 5 talked to those who came for the haircuts, most of them only needed one word to describe their feelings – grateful.

Willis said he'll be giving more free haircuts to the homeless during the Homeless Stand Down event in January.