July 26, 2017
It was Philly’s feel-good story of the winter.
Brennon Jones, a barber from Chester who moved to West Philadelphia, set out on a mission to provide free haircuts for the homeless in the city and beyond in January.
He received an onslaught of coverage after PhillyVoice interviewed him at work at the corner of 15th and Walnut streets one winter day, landed an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show, was the focus of a documentary and launched a multi-city tour.
Jones and his “Haircuts 4 the Homeless" mission also caught the eye of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who saw him snipping and styling back in May and celebrated his kindness.
"I'm a huge fan of what you're doing," Kenney told him. "I've been watching, and I'm proud."
But even the best of stories can face some adversity.
On July 17, Jones was told he couldn’t continue cutting hair near 15th Street and JFK Boulevard since – according to one report – he lacked a vendor license he said he was never told to get and prompted health-code concerns.
"A woman from (Licenses and Inspections) walked right up and told me I couldn't operate anymore. I had a long line waiting for haircuts, but she didn't care," Jones said Tuesday night.
"A lot of my supporters were outraged," he continued. "They started an online petition, and more than 17,000 people signed it. One of my supporters, Lolly Gavin, got word to the mayor last Thursday. He said he'd have my back."
Contacted for comment, Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt explained that safety concerns were tantamount.
“This barber was conducting haircuts on the traffic median and we were concerned about his safety and that of his clients,” she told PhillyVoice this week.
Jones’ mission would not be stopped for long, and he credits Kenney for living up to his word.
In a Tuesday afternoon Facebook post, Jones declared that he “Just got word from the Mayor.... Haircut4Homeless is BACK IN BUSINESS! #DevilYouLossAgain #GodDidIt.”
Hitt confirmed that the city “found an alternative spot for him,” that being the north apron of City Hall or in the Courtyard.
That location is just fine with Jones, who has put the whole mess behind him.
"I was very upset at first, because I didn't understand why, but I was happy when the mayor said he'd have my back, and happier that he came though on his word," said Jones, as he was preparing for his Friday departure for Atlanta.
"I'm excited that I'll be able to continue my mission of giving back and spreading love. When I get back from Atlanta, I'll be back bright and early outside City Hall doing what I do best."