Portable barbershop lets Moose Jaw man give back

Jason Gauthier sees a lot of himself in those sitting in his chair.

Maybe they haven't had the easiest time, but they're working on themselves. 

Not too long ago, he was in a similar place. Gauthier was homeless. 

Through the help and support of others, he was able to start anew. Now he is giving back through free haircuts.

"When you connect with an individual — it opens up an intimacy and a level of vulnerability that I have not achieved in any other way," he said. "They're no longer invisible and they feel like they're seen and heard and loved."

Heidi Atter/CBC

Gauthier started giving free haircuts to less fortunate people at the Riverside Mission in Moose Jaw, Sask., about a year ago. Through fundraising and working, Gauthier is now finishing up hair school and has a trailer decked out to be a portable barber shop. 

Gauthier holds weekend events where he gives haircuts while volunteers give out hygiene items and a free lunch.

Through haircuts, Gauthier hopes to remove the stigmas around homeslessness, addiction and mental health. Without hair in their faces, people can see his customers' eyes, Gauthier said. This helps others see them as humans. 

Heidi Atter/CBC

Gauthier saw a familiar face, Richie, at his latest event.

"We caught up and he's doing better now."

It just takes one person to be kind to them and see them for who they are. - James Gauthier

Arron Richard-Sneyder goes by Richie. The two greeted each other with a hug and chatted about Richie's new job and where he's living. 

The 31-year-old doesn't live at the mission but would go by to eat, he said. He heard about Gauthier doing cuts and went in because he "badly" needed one. 

A year after the first haircut, Richard-Sneyder is DJ-ing with Moose Jaw Pride, looking at booking weddings and almost has enough money saved for his own industrial sound system. 

"[When] he did my hair, it was amazing. I felt like a million dollars," Richard-Sneyder said.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Seeing people like Richard-Sneyder shows Gauthier that his effortws are working, he said. 

"Sometimes it just takes one person to be kind to them and see them for who they are," Gauthier said.

Heidi Atter/CBC

Gauthier has a dream of driving across Canada and inspiring other hairdressers to take to the streets. 

"I want to just tell people 'Don't give up' and 'Don't give up on these people."