Public libraries can be a safe haven for those struggling with homelessness. That’s the story of a local barber who benefited from the library’s resources to turn his life around. From living in the streets to becoming a licensed barber, Samuel Brown is now on a mission to pay it forward.
Brown is known as Sam the Barber. He travels around Chicago giving out free haircuts and making friends along the way. A year ago, he started a nonprofit called Haircuts for Humane, which he now runs fulltime.
“It’s like therapy,” Brown said. “When I cut hair, I be in a different place.”
Life hasn’t always been easy for Brown. He described his childhood as harsh.
“I grew up in a single home — my mother, two sisters,” Brown said. “My mother was addicted to cocaine. She was alcoholic.”
Brown recently partnered with the Chicago Public Library for free haircut pop-ups across city branches. He said local libraries branches were a safe haven for him when he was homeless: “I was going to libraries to get heat and resources.”
He said his motivation behind helping others is his mother, who is in hospice.
“She never gave up on me,” Brown said. “She is fighting for me right now. I saw her a few days ago, and she was like, ‘Keep doing what you are doing in the world.’”
Brown delivers a fresh cut and human interaction.
“People want someone to listen to them,” Brown said. “They want to express what they have been through because sometimes we all can be self-centered.”
With an infectious smile, Brown said he wants to pay it forward the way people helped him along his journey.
“I’m serving a purpose,” Brown said. “What he has for me will come.”
Brown’s next free hair cut event is Tuesday at the Legler Regional Library, 115 S. Pulaski Road, from noon to 6 p.m.