Arthur Crenshaw raised a handheld mirror over his head Friday and, with traffic buzzing behind him on Greene Street downtown, admired his new haircut.
“It looks good,” Crenshaw, 39, said to an Augusta Technical College student studying to become a hairstylist in the school’s barbering program. “Just don’t make me look like Herman the Munster.”
Crenshaw was one of about 340 people who attended Augusta’s Stand Down for Homelessness resource fair at the Salvation Army Center of Hope.
Volunteers from at least nine agencies provided counseling, food and services – such as haircuts – to the less fortunate.
Jeannette Gilles, a veterans advocate for the Augusta Warrior Project, said 77 participants were veterans. Officials estimate about 40 percent of the total visitors were homeless.
In Augusta, data kept by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimate there are 610 homeless people in the city: 163 in emergency shelters, 167 in transitional housing, 135 on the street and 145 precariously housed.
Crenshaw has found himself in the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter a couple times in the past five years, unable to support himself off the monthly disability check he receives from the federal government because of suffering from sleep apnea, depression and severe asthmatic bronchitis.
“The volunteers at this event don’t realize how much this helps the community,” he said. “It lets those who are less fortunate know people are concerned and care. These days, with the economy being so sullen, we all could use a little hope.”
Crenshaw was the first customer of Oneisha Davis, an Augusta Tech stylist and barber in training.
“It feels good to give back,” she said. “When you see someone, you never know what they’re going through, what’s their current trouble and what are the stresses they’re facing. A haircut and a fun conversation can change a person’s whole perception on the world.”
A haircut changed Carl Finklea.
“It’s been a good day,” said Finklea, 58, who is homeless but he hopes not for long.
On Friday, Finklea got his blood pressure checked, dental work examined and hair trimmed.
“I had no idea of all the services offered in Augusta,” Finklea said. “I found a place to possibly get a job, find some housing and get a bite to eat on a regular basis. This has been a big help.”
Amy Rickard, the social services director at The Salvation Army, said the charity’s mission is to help the homeless and she hopes the stand-down enhanced its goal.
“From top-level-assistance needs to more basic nuances, this event was a really great time of collaboration for us,” she said. “We are, and all of our partners are in the same place at the same time to build stronger support networks and provide for a better referral system.
“That’s what it is all about.”