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Victoria hair stylist provides free haircuts to those in need

Jamie McCallum estimates he’s given 400 haircuts since opening Community Salons in 2021
Jamie McCallum, owner of Community Salons, has provided over 400 haircuts for free over the three years the business has been open. (Bailey Seymour/The News)

A salon based near downtown Victoria hopes to continue being a vital part of the local community by providing for free haircuts to those living in poverty and in difficult financial circumstances.

After more than 20 years of cutting hair, Jamie McCallum opened Community Salons in 2021, pioneering a new business model with the goal of providing free haircuts to those who can’t afford a standard barbershop or salon.

The Meares Street salon started by taking a contribution from paying clients instead of taking tips, which McCallum would then use to give free haircuts to others, no questions asked.

“It started like I would take a contribution from the client, and then I would match that. And then that would pay for somebody’s haircut,” said McCallum. “I wanted something for community to come together, like all walks of life, sort of together.”

Nowadays, he tries to fit around three free haircuts every week – depending on his schedule – for those who ask. He estimated he’s given more than 400 free haircuts in the three years the shop has been open.

“I oftentimes do it out of frustration,” he said. “I’ll see what’s happening and what we’re doing is not working right. It’s [really] sad, like how apathetic we are to somebody’s overdose on the street.”

Although his funding model has its flaws and the program has been taken advantage of in the past, he continues to tweak his business so he can live comfortably and continue contributing to his community.

“It’s not been easy and I worry, like, how sustainable is this?” he said. “[Some clients are] living in their van, or people who have somebody touch them for the first time or have hot water in their hair, a handful have gotten out of abusive relationships and hadn’t had access to these services before but now they do, and those are really worth it.”

He has met other business owners, like a dentist and a naturopath, who have adopted similar programs that were based off what Community Salons was doing. He also works with other businesses and non-profit organizations, providing his services to help with community fundraisers and events.

Currently, McCallum is in the process of creating an affordable, online hair-styling course and he also hopes to work with other stylists to teach styling in the city at an affordable price due to the high prices of established barber and stylist schools.

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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