Joshua Santiago always knew that he wanted to become a barber. Photo: Empowering Cuts.
Joshua Santiago always knew that he wanted to become a barber. Photo: Empowering Cuts.

This local leader is providing free haircuts to homeless people in the Kensington area

Joshua Santiago now hopes to take his barbershop mobile with the help of the public.


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Growing up in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia was extremely rough for Joshua Santiago.

He did not have the proper guidance when he was a youngster, which caused him to act out during his youth.

“I went to detention centers, I got sent to disciplinary schools, it was tough,” said Santiago, founder of the nonprofit organization Empowering Cuts.

As a child, his father would cut his hair and mess it up every time. Soon after, his brother started to cut his hair.

They couldn’t afford a trip to the barbershop. 

“When my brother started cutting my hair I started thinking about my love for it and that made me want to change,” he said.

He soon found a love for haircutting which led him to fix his life.

“When I turned about 24-25 and came home from jail, I enrolled in barber school,” he said.

Little did he know, his instructor would send his class to homeless shelters to cut their hair. The method taught him a lot about cutting hair, while also giving back to the community.

Out of that experience, Santiago decided he wanted to do the same for members of his own community.

“For me, me being able to provide a haircut for someone who is homeless means more to me than any amount of money,” he said.

He also provides free haircuts for military veterans, children, and families that have fallen on hard times.

For Santiago, his generous charitable work is more than just providing haircuts, he also makes friendly connections with the people.

“What’s important is how they feel after getting a fresh haircut,” he said.

His business, Empowering Cuts, opened in January 2017, and he’s never looked back on his old life. 

The business officially became a nonprofit organization five months ago.

So far, he has provided nearly 8,000 free haircuts to homeless individuals.

“I also travel to different places to cut hair for the homeless,” said Santiago.

He has recently traveled to San Antonio and Los Angeles to partner with other nonprofit organizations to give haircuts

“I want to help serve underprivileged communities,” he said.

Last year, Santiago and his volunteers started a GoFundMe account to help raise money for a 32 foot mobile home and convert it into a mobile barbershop for easier access to provide haircuts.

“Our ultimate goal is $25,000,” he said.

They have recently surpassed their goal and nearly doubled it to $60,000.

“That money also goes to other supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, we go through so much hand sanitizer because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Santiago.

But this is not the end of his cause, Santiago is also in talks with different treatment centers to help homeless locals get the proper treatment for their ailments.

“I’m hoping that these people can see how they look when they are freshly done and want to get the right treatment they need,” he said.”We can refer these individuals and get them the help.”

Santiago’s RV will be completed in the next coming weeks.

To help support Santiago’s cause visit its GoFundMe page.


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