New York barber offers free haircuts to the homeless

Posted at 11:47 AM, Nov 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-06 11:47:02-05

Self esteem can be raised many ways.

There's a man in Albany, New York who knows it can come from a haircut and a shave.

He calls his effort "shaving lives".

Myk O'Kane makes a living working wonders with the clippers.

On Wednesdays, he packs his tools of the trade to walk the city streets looking for men, most of us pretend not to see - the homeless.

"A haircut, I think, is extremely powerful. I think just in general we want to look good, feel good," O'Kane says.

Anywhere he finds a fellow who's down and out, Myk sets up shop to give him a haircut and a shave wrapped in tender respect.

"It's my way of showing that I care about you, the person, appreciate you and you're important," O'Kane says.

He also brings his shop on the go to homeless shelters.

Myk understands these men. He spent time on the streets when he was 16 and "unruly", as he describes it, .

It opened his eyes to the world.

He reconnected with his parents, whose love never wavered during his rough patch.

Now he's a dad and about to be married.

The haircut is just an opening to let these men to know someone is on their side.

Now, he falls into a comfortable patter with the men.

They share their stories of loss, of life, of drink.

"Muhammad Ali had a quote, 'Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth.' So I'm just trying to pay for my room here on earth," O'Kane says.

And by the time the barbering is done, their hearts have been eased and the men are reminded: their lives matter.

Myk says the first haircut he gave was the toughest, mainly because he wasn't quite sure how to offer it, and he wasn't sure how the offer would be received. But it went well, and that first "client" is someone Myk still sees.