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As debate on homelessness rages, he’s in a Tacoma parking lot giving away haircuts

Formerly homeless man gives back through free haircuts

Formerly homeless himself, Spanaway resident Tre’vonne Wilkins now gives back by providing free haircuts to those experiencing homelessness, cutting hair along Pacific Avenue and South Tacoma Way in Tacoma.
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Formerly homeless himself, Spanaway resident Tre’vonne Wilkins now gives back by providing free haircuts to those experiencing homelessness, cutting hair along Pacific Avenue and South Tacoma Way in Tacoma.

Tre’vonne Wilkins wants people to spread love, peace and positivity.

That’s what he aimed to do in a parking lot on the corner of South Tacoma Way and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma on Sunday.

With a barber’s chair, a pair of hair clippers and some music, Wilkins offered free haircuts for people experiencing homelessness.

“It comes from the heart,” the 37-year-old Spanaway man said. “I love giving back.”

Wilkins has given free haircuts to those in need for years, mostly at events he’s invited to. For the first time on Aug. 4, he decided to provide services down the street from the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

There were so many takers, he lost count.

“I’m a big hugger, so I got a lot of hugs,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins was a barber on Tacoma’s East Side for three years and currently works as a dental assistant at a Tacoma nonprofit called Lindquist Dental for Children.

Formerly homeless himself, Wilkins said he knows what the people on the streets have been through.

“You feel down and out, like nobody’s there for you, nobody cares,” he said.

Wilkins found himself without a home after his 2-year-old daughter had a stroke in 2011. She was diagnosed with a rare heart disease called restrictive cardiomyopathy, where the chambers of the heart lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood, leading to heart failure.

“I lost my job when I was in the hospital,” Wilkins said. “I didn’t leave her side. I was in the hospital every day with her.”

After his daughter received a heart transplant, he was able to get back on his feet. In 2016, he won a contest that allowed him to live in a house rent-free for a year.

“I got to save up, and I would say about a year and a half after that got an apartment,” Wilkins said. “I’ve been giving back ever since. That’s only the right thing to do.”

Kyle Peters, 37, had his hair faded by Wilkins on Sunday. Peters is part of the New Life Recovery program at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. He heard last week that Wilkins was giving free hair cuts and sought him out.

“It helps you feel better about yourself,” Peters said about his haircut.

Gerald Bismark, 45, felt the same way. A veteran from New Hampshire, Bismark told The News Tribune he came to the area because of potential job opportunities around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

While getting his hair trimmed by Wilkins, Bismark said he had a job interview with Veterans Affairs the next day.

“There should be more people like Tre in the world. And I’m not saying this because you’re cutting with sharp objects around my head,” Bismark joked.

Bismark said he’s inspired to look for ways to give back.

“I hope I can match some of his commitment,” he said.

On Sunday, cars driving by honked and called out their support to Wilkins. Some even stopped to take pictures and drop off food, which Wilkins shared with passersby.

He hopes it’ll make people think twice about those who are homeless in Tacoma.

“Don’t judge people by their situation,” Wilkins said. “They may be down and out, but they’re still human. They have goals, they just don’t have the resources to reach them.”

Wilkins plans to continue his free haircuts every week. This Sunday, he plans to set up shop around People’s Park.

“A haircut makes you feel on top of the world,” Wilkins said. “When you get a haircut you feel like you can accomplish anything … That’s what it’s about — helping people feel good about themselves.”

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