On a hot summer afternoon, Rene Salazar can be found on sidewalks chatting it up with strangers with his hair clippers in one hand and a listening ear.
For about five years the Ruskin, Fla. man has been cutting hair. It’s been mostly for his family and friends, but it wasn’t until recently he started seeking out those who may need kindness and a cut the most.
He travels around the Florida communities of Ruskin, downtown Tampa, and Ybor City looking for people who may be homeless or down on their luck and asks one simple question: Would you like a free haircut?
“Well, they just say, ‘Yeah, yeah sure.’ And then they will tell me, ‘When?’ and I say, ‘Right now, I got my stuff right now,’ and that’s when they’re like, ‘Wow, for real?’ For real man and I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’ll cut it right here,’ so then they will be super surprised that I got everything with me at all times,” Salazar said.
Salazar may do as many as twenty haircuts in one day and it’s all for free.
“I keep these things in my car so if ever I see somebody on the side I just [say], ‘Hey man, can I cut your hair,'” Salazar said. “I guess because I didn’t have a haircut growing up and I knew how it felt. Plus, it makes people feel better. I know it makes me feel better when I get a haircut.”
B.J. Carpenter echos that sentiment.
He lost his job as a landscaper during the pandemic and getting a fresh haircut wasn’t on the top of his priority list.
“Rough, bills just piling up on you. Yup, just looking for some kind of break,” Carpenter said.
Salazar knows a pair of clippers may not solve the world’s problems, but it can make all the difference for the person sitting in his chair.
“Some of us take our blessings for granted and then others abuse our blessings and that’s why I feel like it helps people,” Salazar said.
By Vanessa Araiza, WFTS.