A fresh look

Empowering Cuts gave free haircuts to individuals in need for 24 hours in hopes of raising money for a mobile barbershop.

Cuts for a cause: Joshua Santiago, creator of Empowering Cuts, offered free haircuts to people in need for 24 hours at the intersection of Kensington and Allegheny avenues. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

The smell of grilling food drew a line near the intersection of Kensington and Allegheny avenues on the first day of June, but it was the 24 hours of free haircuts that drew many curious and in-need visitors.

Empowering Cuts hosted the 24 Hour Haircut 4 Homeless fundraiser, which provided grooming and other services from noon to noon. Empowering Cuts is run by Mayfair resident Joshua Santiago, and the project has expanded since the Times checked in with him last year, adding barbers and making local partnerships that include One Day At A Time Recovery, Sisterhood 4 Life and Philly Flan.

The goal: Besides connecting people with resources they need, Santiago is hoping to raise funds via donations to transform a camper he recently bought into a fully-fledged mobile barber shop.

“When it rains and snows I can still do my thing inside of there,” he said.

Empowering Cuts is already largely mobile, packing all necessary grooming and filming equipment in the back of a small car and driving to locations throughout Philadelphia and other cities. They typically set up shop for five to seven hours, Santiago said, so a 24-hour event would take things to the next level.

“I’m not trying to take a break,” he said.

Other services included HIV testing from AIDS Healthcare Foundation, food from Beyond Street Dreams and HNTRS collecting donations. Against The Grain barbershop drove from over three hours away to also give haircuts.

Between 400 and 500 people were served at the event, Santiago said, with about 200 of those getting haircuts.

“I remember the other day we were driving looking for someone to cut their hair so this has definitely become bigger than I thought,” he said.

Santiago dreamed of being a barber ever since he was a kid and created Empowering Cuts as a way to give self-confidence to people who do not have the methods of taking care of themselves as much as they would like.

“I had people who I cut before cry tears of joy because it’s uplifting,” he told the Times previously. “It gives them the courage to feel as though they can conquer the world. Honestly, they feel as though they can do anything.”

Donations can be made through Cashapp at $EmpoweringCuts and Venmo @EmpoweringCuts. They can also be reached at EmpoweringCuts@gmail.com.