Paramedic turns volunteer barber to help homeless

As a paramedic with a fulsome beard Ipswich-born Damian Roche stands as an impressive figure as a recently qualified barber and founder of BarberAid

BarberAid is a small charity established in Ipswich that offers free haircuts for the homeless.

Mr Roche signed up for formal training as a barber five years ago while contemplating his longer term future.

Two years ago he met a group of homeless people after being invited to cut hair on the streets and parks of Brisbane.

This led to him to founding BarberAid last year followed by the first mobile barbershop in Queens Park in May.

“I felt it was the right time in my life to give something back to the community I love,” Mr Roche said.

‘In my work as a paramedic I do come across the homeless and it occurred to me that a simple haircut can provide the stimulus needed to make a person feel good about themselves.

“It can lead them to finding a job and ultimately a place to live.

“Being homeless is not just sleeping rough in a park or under a bridge.

“It also includes couch surfing, living in a car, sharing an overcrowded house or boarding house.

“These categories of homelessness and others like those escaping domestic violence all come under the umbrella of being homeless.”

Mr Roche said since he and his team of volunteer barbers and hairdressers had been attending places like Queens Park several local businesses had come on board to support BarberAid.

“I’d like to particularly thank all those who have donated goods including Red Rooster, Ungerman Brothers, Bakers Delight Riverlink and Bunnings Bundamba.

“We have also collaborated with other support organisations such as Orange Sky Laundry to set up a mobile barber shop at the same time as they visit Queens Park.

“The reaction is always the same. We go there to make people feel some pride in the appearance.

“They thank us each time we roll up with our popup marquees and chairs.”

Mr Roche said that while he had long been interested in becoming a barber his passion remains being a paramedic. His volunteer work with BarberAid was aimed at supporting people in the community who needed help.

“The history of barbering also interests me,” he said.

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