A CHURCH-RUN charity based in Madrid has launched a mobile hairdresser's, barbershop and shower unit for homeless people and for those who cannot afford a trim and a clean-up.
Los Mensajeros de la Paz ('Messengers of Peace') says: “If there are people out there who cannot afford €2 for a coffee, then there's no way they can afford a haircut.”
Father Ángel García Rodríguez, 81, who runs the charity, thanked the town hall in Gijón, Asturias for donating a bus and a mini-touring caravan, both of which have been kitted out and which include a rest area.
So far, the two vehicles, known as a Pelobús (literally, 'hair-bus') have been round Gijón and Asturias' largest city Oviedo, plus Barcelona and Murcia, and will carry on touring the country to set up in 'whichever towns and cities need it'.
“Those who need our services do not have to show tax declarations or anything else to prove they are in poverty – nothing – they can just walk in,” Father Ángel stresses.
“We've had two extraordinary sponsors to help us – two angels who have fallen from the sky.”
These 'angels' are the official hairdresser for the Spanish national football team, Ramiro Fernández, from Oviedo, and Ángela Navarro, who makes wigs for little girls with cancer.
Other major life-changing charity projects the 'Messengers of Peace' run include the annual Christmas Eve night meal in Madrid in the city hall's 'crystal palace', which includes a gourmet four-course meal, music and celebrations, plus free-flowing non-alcoholic drinks, to which all homeless people are invited to attend for free so they do not miss out on Christmas.
This is run with the help of the city council and its mayoress, Manuela Carmena.
Another is the charity's so-called 'Robin Hood' restaurant, which charges the rich to feed the poor.
A top-flight, exquisite eatery in the capital which has head-hunted staff from several luxury hotels, the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch to paying customers every day, and the money they pay funds the evening meal, which is purely for the homeless.
Sitting in an environment which immediately smacks of a Michelin-starred eatery, with silver service and gold chandeliers, the evening and night-time customers are entirely street-dwellers, who have ID cards given free by the council to accredit their situation and which are stamped by the restaurant upon entry.
The food is so good and the initiative so popular that the 'Messengers of Peace' restaurant is always fully-booked for breakfast and lunch for at least two months in advance.
“I want them to dine with the same dignity as anyone else, and with the same quality – drinking from crystal glasses, not plastic ones, and in an environment of conversation and friendship,” Father Ángel stresses.
Customers are allowed to sing, provided they do not annoy other diners, and have free Wi-Fi on site and free use of a 'company' mobile phone for any calls they need to make.
They are allowed to use the kitchen for landmark celebrations, such as birthdays, and can even bring their own food, have it cooked, and just order drinks.
Volunteers lend a hand round the clock to serve dinner to over 100 patrons a night, some of whom, the restaurant says, were once professional, educated and middle-class homeowners who have lost everything in the recession.
As well as the Robin Hood and the Christmas party, 'Messengers of Peace' opened a community centre in a disused church last year which supplies free coffee 24 hours a day and has TV and beds for those who need it, with mass given every day.
Photograph 1: Gijón town council
Photograph 2: Getty Images