"It’s my new drug.”
Nasir Sbohani has found a new drug that keeps him sober and on the path of righteous living: giving haircuts to the homeless.
Once overcome by his own personal battle with drug addiction, Sbohani, now known as the “Street Barber,” skateboards around the city of Melbourne and gives free cuts to homeless individuals on his days off. As Metro shares, he spends time talking to them in the hopes of inspiring them to start fresh.
Nasir credits much of his transformation to the tenets of his Baha’i faith and the volunteer work of giving haircuts, as it keeps him inspired on the daily to “never give up.”
In the video by PLGRM (above), Nasir was extraordinarily open about his past and his drug addiction:
“That’s why I started cutting hair. I love it so much, it became my new way of getting high, man. It’s my new drug.”
The philanthropic barber shares photos and stories of those he helps on Instagram, of which we are re-sharing below. Who knows – perhaps Sbohani’s inspiring story will help others across the world once again believe in themselves and the limitless opportunity for change.
“A haircut can do so much for someone. That’s why I name what I do ‘Clean Cut, Clean Start’”
“That’s me… I like it!”
He said he had been on cocaine “all the time. I was going $300-400 a day”
“Now, when I wake up from my bed and stare at that thing, the first thing I get to see is ‘Don’t give up.'”
“This is Mark. He’s 28 years old. He hasn’t had contact with his family for nearly a decade. I’ve known of Mark for a while now and would show him love every time I bumped into him, and he would reciprocate with so much joy. You could tell he just wanted someone to talk to. Today when I saw him on the street, I asked if he’d be interested in a cut. His eyes lit up as he said ‘Ya man, I haven’t had a chance to get groomed in 8 or 9 months.’ He told me he’d been homeless for 3 years. He said it wasn’t drugs which led him to the streets – that although he uses both heroin and meth occasionally, he does so more for social reasons, so he can ‘fit in’ and feel like he has friends. He got kicked out of his accommodation 3 years ago and hasn’t been able to land a proper job or home since. He suffers from mental illness too – ‘I’m really depressed and hear voices in my head, Nas’ – he told me, and that’s another reason why he’s on the streets. He has no support system and doesn’t really have friends. He is lonely and just wants people to show him love and accept him.”
“This is Chris. He was 21 years old when I met him and his birthday was the following day. He has no family which he can contact or be with – he has basically been entirely alone for the past 11 years. He has been on the streets and homeless since he was 10. Yeah, I know, insane but a sad reality. I asked him how that’s possible and his reason gave me chills. ‘I hated having to constantly wear extra layers and warm clothing at school when it was hot’ he said quietly. I asked him what he meant by that and he said that it was to cover up the bruises from getting hit by his dads. ‘Dads?!’ I said, and he replied ‘Ya, both by my real dad and also my step-dad’. He elaborated and told me that he was mostly with his mom and step-dad – who was very abusive and beat him. Then his mom sent him to live with his ‘real dad’ and the abuse kept coming. There was no escape and he had more than he could take, so he took sanctuary to the streets. At the age of 11 he found himself smoking ice and eventually got into heroin too.”
“This is Ganesh. He is 34 years old and has one daughter. He immigrated to Australia with his mother and brother almost 20 years ago – his father abandoned them in Fiji. Upon arrival at the age of 15, he met a girl. He fell head over heels for her, and she soon became his first love. They got a home together and had a baby daughter. Things were great for him until he found out she was having an affair. After finding out, he didn’t leave her – she left him. After she left, she took his daughter with her and then his home. Distraught, broken, and alone, he was forced to live on the streets in his misery. He took up heroin in order to try his best to mask the pain of heartbreak. To this day he says – 10 years later – he’s still not over her and hasn’t been able to settle down.”
“This is Rachel. She is 28 years old and has one son. I was roaming the streets with my kit and Rachel walked by and said ‘hey, you’re the guy that gives free haircuts to us street folk!’ I said hi, and asked if she was keen to get a free cut, which she was. This made me particularly happy because that day I had my friend Saba (@monzaviyan) offering to do makeup for my female clients if they wanted it. Anyway, we started talking, and Rachel told me she had been on the streets since she was 13 years old. She didn’t go into too much detail but told me that she really had a rough upbringing and that’s why she ran away and got adopted by the streets. She told me she had been using heroin on and off for 15 years. My heart sank, knowing she was only 28. She explained that she started using in order to try and mask the trauma from her childhood. As a 13 year old, however, she didn’t know how to use heroin so acquaintances on the street would shoot it into her veins for her. I was so shocked and saddened when I heard that – I couldn’t say anything for a bit and cut her hair in silence. She continued to tell me that after a while she had to learn to do it herself. 15 years later she works as a street worker almost every day. Her son, Xavier, is only one years old and the “joy of my life” she told me.”
“This is Marcel. He is in his late 30’s. I may state that many of my street clients are wonderful, sweet and pure souls but I can honestly say that no one, in my experience, has been as kind and and generous as Marcel. He has 4 kids, none of which he gets to see anymore. The mother of his children who was his first love and now ex-wife took them away from him several years back. When him and his wife were together, they would use drugs often and that led his wife to become a street worker in order to make an income to supply their habit. Marcel on the other hand was a musician. When they had their first child they both decided to kick the drugs and clean up. After their fourth child, Marcel lost lots of weight due to various stress and anxiety and his wife thought he was back on the gear again – which in turn led her to leave him and move to Western Australia. That destroyed Marcel’s mental and emotional health, causing him to legitimately get back on the gear, which ultimately led him to the streets. He is a chronic alcoholic and drinks mostly to mask his pain from everything.”
“This is Kevin. He’s 48 years old and has been on the streets for a while now. The only time he’s got a roof over his head is when he’s in prison. In his 48 years he’s been in and out of jail roughly 20 times – always for armed robbery and theft, in order to support his drug habit. You’d think he would have learnt his lesson but drugs like heroin have a grip on your life that is very difficult for those who may not suffer for addiction to fully understand: it’s often irrational and not in your control. Kevin has unfortunately contracted Hepatitis C during his years using heroin and sharing needles – his liver was failing slowly, you could tell with the condition of his hair and skin. At one point I left to grab some stuff to help cut with and when I came back Kevin was right there waiting patiently guarding all my tools and equipment – I’m sure some people would have thought that due to his past he would have stolen from me – but I had faith in him and gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was a genuinely good person – you could tell in his heart – it’s just that heroin masked it.”
“This is Graham. He’s 33 years old and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He is forced to live on the streets because he has no family. When I asked him about homeless shelters, he told me that they couldn’t accommodate him due to the fact that the government requires trained staff on-call 24 hours who are capable of caring and assisting people with disabilities – like Graham. However the cost is too high and shelters (like the Salvation Army) do not have enough funding for such staff, which means he often has nowhere to stay. The really sad thing is, he told me his disabilities were due to severe head trauma from his childhood. He explained that when he was 2 years old he was taken away from his Aboriginal mother and forced to go to an ‘Anglo Saxon school’. This was an attempt for the Indigenous peoples to adapt and learn the Anglo Australian culture and way of life – in hopes that they forget their own culture. Graham was one of many children who were part of this ‘Stolen Generation’. It was in school that he got beaten so bad that his skull shattered and left him with lifelong injuries. The brain injury left him with epilepsy and cerebral palsy – the right side of his body cannot function properly.”
“Jen , a 50 year old mother of 4 – grandmother of 3. Her kids don’t talk to her anymore and she suffers from a heroin addiction. She told me she hasn’t been able to get a proper cut in almost 5 years – let alone anything that had to do with her getting “pampered” and said she was in desperate need for some attention on her hair. I brushed her hair free of knots, cut the split ends, reshaped her fringe, gave a dry shampoo treatment and massaged her hair and scalp with a coconut serum to help replenish the dry damaged hair she had. You see, I’m trained in men’s hair, so woman’s hair is virtually a foreign concept to me – but i tried my best and did exactly as she asked. She looked at the mirror, shook my hand then gave me a hug and said ‘thank you, I finally feel beautiful again’. The thing is I thought she was beautiful before also.”
“This is Janko. He’s in his 40s and has no partner or children. When he approached me cutting another client he was very drunk and asked if I could give him a cut when I was finished. I told him of course and that I’d be finished soon. He waited his turn patiently and when it was time for him he sat down and told me he wanted a number 2 all over – which he later admitted was because he didn’t know when his next cut would be. I asked him about his life story and he told me that he was homeless because his old landlord kicked him out of his place and ever since then he hasn’t found a place. I told him my story and my addiction issues in the past and how I derive my happiness and joy these days from serving others, and that in a sense cutting hair is how I ‘get high’. At this point Janko begins laughing at me, telling me ‘man you’re a tripper’ and then points to his bottle and says ‘this is how I get high’ as he kept laughing. We began speaking about why he drinks besides the fact that he claimed he loves the stuff and is drunk from sunrise to sundown, and then he told me something very interesting. He said ‘Im alone and have no one to listen to or tell me what to do – and because of that I always get my way’. Because of that, he said, if he wanted to drink he would drink”
Because Sobhani was a former addict, he isn’t afraid to ask hard questions and help them get a fresh start.
Follow Nasir’s work on Instagram @TheStreetBarber.
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This article (Renegade Barber Gives Haircuts To The Homeless While Overcoming His Own Addiction) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com.