BPD’s Haircuts for the Homeless Program Connects the Homeless to Services

By Giving Free Haircuts, BPD Officers Are Hoping to Help Connect the Homeless to Services that Could Rebuild Their Lives: It’s been said time and time again that you should never underestimate the power of a good barber, and, in the case of Boston Police Officer Joshua DeLarosa, that old adage has never been truer. Looking for new ways to engage and make inroads within the homeless community that presently occupies the area of Newmarket Square, BPD Officer DeLarosa theorized that, ironically enough, cutting might be the best way to connect. Said DeLarosa, who started cutting hair as a hobby over 15 years ago, “Not everybody wants to talk to a police officer, but everybody loves to talk to their barber.” And, so began a program, dubbed Haircuts for the Homeless, in which DeLarosa, in his new position as one of the BPD’s Homeless Liaisons along with Officer Arthur Depinho, and friends began providing free haircuts to members of the homeless community every Monday from 9:00am to noon at the Homeless Engagement Center at 112 Southampton Street. No doubt, the early returns have been positive. In fact, in the first four weeks of the program, which began in May of 2019, DeLarosa and friends have given out over 150 haircuts. And, while DeLarosa is most assuredly encouraged by the program’s early popularity, he’s more excited about its long-term potential. Said DeLarosa, “When you think about it, a haircut is transformative. It does wonders for a person’s self-esteem. And, in many ways, it’s a metaphor for what we’re trying to do out here. We’re trying to help people confront and conquer their addictions. And, if we can connect them to the right detox facility, there’s nothing more transformative than that.” DeLarosa is the first to admit that he’s far from a miracle worker, but every haircut provides him an intimate opportunity to perform one. Said DeLarosa, “When a person sits down in my chair for a haircut, I want to be encouraging. So, I take the opportunity to tell them that everybody has the right to live a good life and, if they’re willing to trust me, I can get them into a facility within 24 hours.” On any given day, DeLarosa has 20 to 30 referral spots or beds available to him at various detox facilities throughout the state. After the first 100 haircuts, DeLarosa had placed 20% of his clientele in treatment centers. Impressive numbers for sure, but DeLarosa knows there’s still much work to be done. “As a police department, we’re always looking for new and better ways to build trust and help people. Hopefully, giving haircuts is something we can use to help people get the help they need.”