For Cincinnatians experiencing homelessness, a haircut is about more than looks

CINCINNATI -- Many hairstylists boast about the power of the right haircut to transform a client's life. Ida Mueller doesn't --  boasting isn't her ball game -- but she sees the instant impact of a free haircut on a person experiencing homelessness every time she gives one. 

Sometimes that impact is just a "Thank you." Other times it's a smile. Most overwhelming of all, she said, is when her clients cry.

"If they cry, I cry," she said.

Mueller, a salon manager at Franciscan Ministries, has been giving annual "Haircuts from the Heart" in partnership with the Salvation Army for the last three years. This year, the rechristened Caring from the Heart event will expand to include a cookout and outreach for people experiencing homelessness in Over-the-Rhine. 

A haircut does more than change a person's look, Salvation Army general secretary Maj. Everett Henry said. It can also change their perspective.

"When you see someone getting a haircut, they see themselves in a different light," he said. "They feel like they're normal and have a purpose."

Giving others that sense of value is a personal mission for Mueller, who spent over a year homeless while she finished school.

"I can talk to the folks because I've experienced homelessness," she said. "I let it be where it is, and they're my babies."

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