He has been making waves on social media, and was even featured on Action News several months ago as a barber for the homeless, working just on the sidewalk with a chair in Kensington for an organization he started called, Empowering Cuts. It was inspired by his barber instructor back in 2015.
"He used to take us to shelters, that's how we learned how to cut hair. For me, being able to provide a free haircut to someone meant more to me than to actually receive money for it," Santiago said.
He continued with the nonprofit despite the pandemic. Through the powers of social media, over the last few months, he was able to raise over $70,000 to purchase and convert a 32-foot RV into a fully stocked mobile barbershop.
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"The RV is equipped with two barber chairs, a bathroom shampoo bowl, a TV, a refrigerator (and) a couch," Santiago described.
Since opening the RV, he has continued cutting hair for the homeless population in Philadelphia, but he has also expanded, taking his scissors to cities in California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. He said the people he works with tell him they are so grateful, and it is clear when you see the before and after photos.
"There's a lot of nonprofit organizations that come out here and see us, that come out here and pass out clothes. But you come out here and you're out here for five or six hours at a time, and you're actually getting to know us for who we actually are," Santiago said.
Since its start, Empowering Cuts has provided almost 8,000 haircuts, and Santiago does not plan on putting his foot on the RV's brakes any time soon.
"Our goal is to have these RVs everywhere, not just in Philadelphia," Santiago said. "And eventually open up some treatment centers as well as some shelters."
"Honestly, my goal is, you know, just to help these individuals as much as we can and give them as many resources as we possibly can," he said.