Joseph Sikora and his Street Thug Barbers service a different kind of clientele, one most people would rather turn a blind eye to than extend a helping hand.
Each Sunday he offers his haircutting services to Abbotsford’s homeless population. And since COVID-19 put a crimp in his clippers many months ago, he has been providing food for the hungry as a way to keep in touch with those on the street.
Sikora knows all about that life. He suffered from addiction for 25 years and lived hand-to-mouth on the streets of Kelowna, having lost his family, his wife and his son.
After nearly a dozen overdoses, Sikora had reached the end of his rope.
“I was a junkie – just as bad, if not worse, as any here. I was so broken and I needed to make some changes.”
Looking at an extended prison sentence, Sikora was offered a final chance to get healthy by attending a long-term treatment centre in New Brunswick, thousands of miles away from the bad influences he was constantly surrounded by in Kelowna.
He grabbed the lifeline, and everything changed. He fought and won custody of his son and met a loving and supportive partner.
“My life is completely different,” he proudly says.
While in treatment, Sikora picked up a set of clippers and began to cut hair. He needed to do something selfless, and to serve others.
Attending church one day while still on the east coast, Sikora was shown a video of the homeless getting haircuts. Upon returning to B.C., he sought out Vancouver-based Street Thug Barbers founder Cam Sterling. After their meeting, Sikora knew what he had to do.
“I decided this is where I needed to be.”
Initially by himself, Sikora eventually took on a volunteer, Candace Rathy. He describes her as a woman “with a big heart.” And one also with the ability to cut hair.
From their humble beginnings, they have attracted more volunteers and are starting to see growth on their Facebook account. They have also teamed up with The Santa Steve Project, and are now able to dedicate Wednesday nights to feeding the homeless.
Unlike soup kitchens or other brick-and-mortar establishments, Sikora and his fellow volunteers go to the various homeless camps to hand out food and water.
“We walk the trails handing out food,” he says.
Sikora credits his faith in sustaining him and for helping him in his mission.
“It’s a total God thing,” he says. “We needed water, and – poof! – three skids of water show up. This is the God factor.”
Street Thug Barbers are not funded by any level of government. People have donated online and Sikora is hoping to increase donations, especially cash.
People often underestimate the difficulty of proper hygiene for those living rough. Sikora knows that “when you look good, you feel good,” but the haircut is really just a means to talk to those with addictions or mental-health issues.
“While they are sitting in our chair, we get a chance to tell them our story and they get to tell us theirs,” he explains.
Sikora will often alert Riverside Shelter staff to meet with the homeless who are ready to commit to detox.
“We’re trying to instill dignity in people,” he says. “It’s so hard to get into detox.”
His end goal is to one day start a detox. He knows the power it has to change lives.
“If there is just one person I can get out, it will be worth it.”
Abbotsford Street Thug Barbers can be reached through their Facebook page. For those looking to help out or donate goods or money, Sikora can be reached at 604-751-6458.