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Joshua Santiago hopes to do random acts of kindness more often. Photo credit: Joshua Santiago.
Joshua Santiago hopes to do random acts of kindness more often. Photo credit: Joshua Santiago.

Philly barber, Joshua Santiago completes his ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ challenge

The founder of Empowering Cuts started June by helping a number of homeless people in his community with things beyond haircuts.

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Joshua Santiago, the owner of the nonprofit, Empowering Cuts, spent the first week of June giving back to locals who panhandle in Philadelphia.

Santiago, who was born and raised in North Philadelphia, said he originally wanted to donate some of his money to someone who had fallen on tough times, especially since many are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I literally set aside a thousand dollars to help someone who has been struggling, I told myself donating that money wasn't going to hurt me,” Santiago said in a recent interview with AL DIA News.

He ended up spending that money on a man facing homelessness. Santiago posted a video of his act of kindness, which led him to receive thousands of dollars in donations from kind-hearted viewers.

The support inspired him to do more.

“I kept telling them to grab as many clothes as you want, as many sneakers as you would like, this is not my money, you can buy anything,” he said.

Videos of Santiago taking less fortunate people to stores to buy sneakers, pay for their stay at hotels, and buying them lunch have been uploaded to his Facebook page.

“I took a few of them to a phone store so that we can stay in contact,” he said.

Santiago regularly drives all over the city giving out free haircuts to homeless people, and has always been generous about giving back, but wanted to offer more than a haircut.

He admits that it was difficult to gain the trust of struggling locals because many of them wanted cash instead of anything else. 

“It would take me to come across 10 homeless people before I could even convince one to get in my car and take them shopping,” said Santiago.

He said one person that really stuck out to him was a woman he bonded with that left an abusive relationship and fell on tough times, which led her to panhandling.

“I actually met her at McDonalds and I really wanted to help her,” he said.

Santiago founded Empowering Cuts in 2017 with the hopes of connecting with homeless people and building their self confidence to get them looking sharp for job interviews. The business officially became a nonprofit organization five months ago.

With the help of his volunteers and friends, Santiago was able to provide over 8,000 people with free haircuts. He also has a mobile barbershop inside a mobile home he converted with the help of donations he received.

Since starting his own nonprofit, Santiago has traveled to San Antonio and Los Angeles to give haircuts.

Even though his seven-day random act of kindness challenge finished at the beginning of June, Santiago said it won’t be the last.

“I have been thinking about doing this every month, this will definitely happen again for sure,” he said.

If you are interested in donating to Santiago’s cause visit his GoFundMe page.

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