Alan Nadir, pictured inset giving a homeless man a haircut, runs Loco Hair Style in Wolverhampton city center

“They tend to gather on the benches over there,” he says, motioning out the window, towards a paved area by the market. But there is one homeless man who Alan is always pleased to see.

“He always waves to me and smiles,” says Alan, who has been running Loco Hair Style barbershop in Cleveland Street, Wolverhampton, for about 13 years. “It makes me feel happy.”

He had spotted the man, in his late 40s, fishing through the bins for food, and wanted to do something to help.

Alan invites the homeless man into his shop

“I tend not to give them money, because I just know they will spend it on alcohol or drugs,” he says. “I offer them food and drink, but they don’t want that, they say they want the money. Then I had the idea of ​​giving him a makeover, I thought that is going to help him in future.”

The video of the man’s transformation, and his reaction when he saw his smart new look, quickly went viral on social media, and turned Alan into something of a local celebrity, much to the surprise of the Kurdish refugee.

“I put it on social media because I wanted to show what a difference a small act can make, and hopefully encourage others,” says Alan, who is 39.

“I never did it because I wanted publicity. Everybody knows me anyway.”

Alan Nadir fled Kurdistan for Wolverhampton in 1999

Life has been good for Alan since he arrived in Wolverhampton in 1999. After fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime in his native Kurdistan, he says he will always be grateful for the warm welcome he received. He now runs a thriving business in the heart of the city, which is packed with customers even on a midweek afternoon.

But he says that for some time he has been troubled by the plight of the homeless people outside his shop, and had been thinking for some time of a way to make a difference. He has now pledged to help one homeless person each month, and is calling on fellow barbers in the city to follow his example.

He says the situation with homelessness in Wolverhampton has improved slightly in recent months, in the main due to the Government’s “Everyone In” initiative which saw them offered hotel accommodation during the pandemic.

“It is a little bit less than it was before,” he says. “The pandemic made things a little better, the Government got them off the streets, but now things are getting back to normal they are back on the streets again.

“Sometimes you see 10 or 15 of them sitting around on the benches here. I offer them food and drink, but they don’t want that, they say they want the money.”

Susan Bullas, who leaves free food outside her shop

Round the corner in Worcester Street, Susan Bullas, 53, runs Home From Home, a shop specializing in African Caribbean food. She sometimes puts out food in a box for people to take free of charge.

“We have homeless people coming in asking for money, but I always tell them that I won’t give them money, I will give them food and drink instead,” she says. “So I’ll give them food and drink rather than money.”

But Mr Singh, who keeps the Ocean Fish Bar a few doors from Alan’s barbershop, says his efforts to help the homeless in the past have created problems for customers.

“We have helped homeless people, by giving them free food,” he says. “We have helped quite a lot in the past. But we have had bad experiences which has now put us off, as when we did help one person, the next day we would find a group of them coming in expecting free food too.

“Word of mouth spreads when we have helped one person. We even had a case where some homeless people came into the restaurant and took food from people’s plates as they were dining. So we don’t do it now.”

But fellow business owner Jay says he has struggled to find a suitable charity to hand over his surplus food.

“I have previously given food left over from my business to St George’s Hub. This was during the first lockdown, but now, I find that nowhere is open after 5.30pm. So I cannot give anything out right now because I’m not aware of anywhere that is open when I’m able to give out my leftover food.

“When I did give food to St George’s Hub, they were very appreciative. They sent me an email thanking me for doing that, especially because they usually get things like tinned food, but I gave foods such as pies, sausage rolls and paninis. “

Alan Nadir outside his Loco Hair Style on Cleveland Street

Back at Loco barbershop, Alan says he has now made similar offers to two other homeless people, who are now considering whether to take him up.

“They said they would have a think about it and let me know,” he says. “I said ‘there’s no need to let me know, just come in and I’ll do it’.”

He says he has been thrilled by the change in the man’s demeanor since he gave him his new look.

“The idea of ​​giving him the makeover was to make him feel better, to show them that they can be better than what they are,” he says.

“When I opened my shop, people helped me with everything, they gave me advice about fitting out the shop and how to run a business. The British people and the Government helped me when things were difficult, now I want to give something back. “

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