Kensington Barber Gives Support, Finds Peace One Haircut At a Time


Josh Santiago cutting someone's hair
Image via Facebook, Empowering Cuts.
Joshua Santiago is the founder of Empowering Cuts, and has provided free haircuts to thousands.

For the past nine years, Josh Santiago has run a three-days-a-week mobile barbershop, writes Max Marin for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Santiago is the founder of one-man nonprofit, Empowering Cuts, in which he provides free haircuts throughout the Philadelphia region and also tours the country with a mobile barber van. 

He estimates that 90 percent of the roughly 12,000 free cuts he’s given over the years have been in Kensington, where he grew up.

As the epicenter of Philly’s opioid crisis, Santiago’s customer base is often the Avenue’s homeless, addicted, and down-and-out. 

He calls them, however, “the most beautifulest people that you ever met your entire life.”

Their stories have given Santiago peace, purpose, and forgiveness.

Santiago was hustling on the street by the age of 12 as drug dealing led him in and out of the criminal justice system.

Now 33, he’s been on probation for 21 years. 

Both his parents struggled with substance abuse. 

During his first pop-up sessions in Kensington, Santiago began to understand what drove his mother to use.

“And I love her dearly now, compared to when I was a kid, because I understand what addiction is,” he said. 

For his clients, Santiago goes beyond free cuts. He also provides support, a listening ear, laughs, and much more.

Read more about Josh Santiago and his nonprofit work at The Philadelphia Inquirer.


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