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Fresh start: Cambridge woman cutting hair for the homeless

Local stylist Tasha Malandruccolo went to the encampment off Samuelson Street
Cambridge resident Tasha Malandruccolo is doing her part to help those experience homelessness by giving free haircuts.

When Tasha Malandruccolo went to the encampment off Samuelson Street to give haircuts to the residents living there, her goal was twofold.

Not only did she want to use her skills as a hairdresser to help those in need, she wanted to bring a human element to one of the city's biggest issues.

"I feel that everyone deserves to have a fresh start and feel like themselves again," Malandruccolo said.

"It was a random idea. My girlfriend and I came here to drop stuff off and I noticed they needed haircuts. I offered and asked if they wanted it and they said yes."

When she posted the video online to try and bring awareness to the plight many are experiencing in the city, the reaction was mixed, Malandruccolo said.

It's exactly what she expected.

"It's been OK, a lot of people don't agree and ask why I'm helping the homeless," she said.

"Everyone is in a state, everyone has issues. With the way the world's going, it's hard to live. Why push people out when we can help?"

The motivation for the service isn't just about wanting to lend a helping hand, though, as the problem runs much deeper for Malandruccolo.

Both her father and roommate have experienced homelessness in the past.

Her roommate, Jonathan Rees, said if he had more people willing to help him in a time of need, he would've been off the streets a lot sooner.

"I spent six years on the streets," Rees said.

"The house I live in was owned by my dad and if it wasn't, I wouldn't be able to afford the market rent and I would be here."

Rees wants to see better social supports in the city and more affordable housing, although he admits from his experience not everyone wants the help.

"It's 50/50 honestly," he said.

"Back when I was on the streets 20 years ago, they didn't have The Bridges, they had Out of the Cold, so I was in a different church every night between Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo and never knew where I was going to go. If I had a community like this, I probably would've been a lot better off."

Malandruccolo agrees tackling the issue of affordable housing is critical, but she also points to the drug issues in the city as something that needs to be addressed.

"Drugs off the streets, that's the main thing," she said.

"I find drugs are the reason why a lot of people are where they are today. When people are on drugs, they don't feel the pain."

With problems to solve and municipal and regional government working to do so, Malandruccolo will continue to do what she can.

And she hopes others will too.

"I want people to know this community they're doing here, they're trying to stop drugs and they want people to live the best that they can," she said.

"I find a lot of people need to stop being so harsh on the homeless. It's one of those things where you need to take the time out of your day to sit and think, what if I was in there situation? Who would help me? Some people say get a job, but would you hire them if their hair was all messy and their clothes were rundown?"