Hairdresser Alexandre Legere shows off the before and after for Glenn, a homeless man who was gettting his first haircut in more than a year. Photo by Agnieszka Ruck

B.C. hairdresser trims away at poverty

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 10, 2018

VANCOUVER – “You will look like a new man!” 

Alexandre Legere is full of compliments as he cuts the wild, scraggly hair of a homeless man with a yellow-stained beard.

It’s Glenn’s first haircut in more than a year. Wrapping the man in a black cape at a men’s shelter in the Downtown Eastside, Legere pulls out his tools and gets to work. He is cutting Glenn’s hair for free. 

Legere estimates he’s provided more than 2,000 such cuts and beard trims to the less fortunate since 2014.

“Some haven’t been touched for years. Some open up and trust. Some have big bodies with so much fragility inside,” said Legere, who has over 30 years experience in the beauty industry.

He’s found offering haircuts and beard trims gives the men a sense of joy, hope and confidence. “You see a light in their eyes, something glowing. You bring a light to them.”

Legere knows what it’s like to be on the other side of receiving help.The New Brunswick native was orphaned at a young age and raised by extended family until he left home at age 14. He lived in his own apartment, finished hair school and began work as a professional hairdresser across North America. At the height of his career, he had two Vancouver salons.

Despite his success, “it was a very hard time of my life,” said Legere. He became addicted to drugs, was self-absorbed and consumed with making money. He had all but abandoned the Catholic faith and values instilled in him by the grandmother who raised him.

“Doing the wrong thing, I ended up losing everything,” he said. 

Homeless in Vancouver, he stumbled across Catholic Charities Men’s Hostel that offers up to 90-day stays and referrals to addiction and other services.

At one point, he moved into another apartment, then lost it again, and was back at the hostel. It was only after a “rebirth” experience that he managed to get back on his feet. 

Clinging to the faith of his grandmother by a thread, one day he found himself walking to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Vancouver. When he arrived, a funeral for a policeman was underway. Feeling awkward, he made for the exit. 

“As I turned around, something inside of me said: ‘Don’t turn around from something that is good for you.’ ”

So, Legere entered, found a priest in the back of the church and gave a full confession in a stairwell. 

“In that moment, I got that rebirth in the Holy Spirit,” said Legere.

He returned to the men’s hostel, where he began offering occasional haircuts to fellow homeless guests. “That was quite a blessing. They built me up again,” he said. “God never took away from me the talent that He gave me.”

Legere began offering free haircuts and beard trims regularly, twice a month, in 2014. Then, a year ago, he was officially hired by the hostel for night shifts and administrative work. Between hostel work and haircuts, he also works as a professional hairdresser for former clients.

He does 15-20 cuts each night at the hostel. Glenn, his first client this night, sits patiently in his chair as Legere expertly trims his long hair and yellowed beard.

“Now, you’re going to be a superstar,” Legere tells Glenn.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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