FREDERICK, MD. — At the salon where she works, Laura Reed charges $70 for a haircut.

But when she’s on the street, her trimming, buzzing and styling expertise comes free of charge.

Almost every week, Laura donates her services to people in need, giving haircuts for free. Armed with a box of styling tools and donated snacks and hygiene products, she sets up in areas around Maryland where she knows she can find people who don’t have the money to spend on a new ‘do.

Her random acts of hair-cutting-kindness began after she moved to a new salon called 4&CO in Rockville, Md. She didn’t have a full schedule of clients yet, so she had some free time on her hands. A mother of two children who both have Tourette syndrome, she knew what it was like to deal with adversity and wanted to give back to her community.

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Inspired by a hairstylist in New York, she decided to use haircutting to make a difference. The first time she approached a stranger, she was nervous. But after five years, she’s got her routine down and it soon became part of her weekly routine.

Oftentimes, Laura gets to know her “clients” on a personal level. Many of them are experiencing homelessness or battling mental illness.

“I know what it’s like living on the streets,” James Kreuzburg told her as she turned his unruly shocks of gray hair into a tidy buzz cut one afternoon in Frederick. He and Laura both agree it’s no fun.

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After going through a divorce, James suffered a mental breakdown and struggled to keep a roof over his head. Since then, he was diagnosed as paranoid schizoaffective. He takes medication to manage his mental illness and has found housing through an aid organization, but he still has a tough time making ends meet.

This is Jim. I was driving up to On Our Own in Frederick to cut hair for the homeless and had never been there before. I pulled over and asked a few people where it was located and a little about what I would be doing. Jim immediately said he would love a hair cut and showed me where the building was. I had a lot of donations and Jim helped me carry everything which was so helpful because it was 100° out. While we walked and talked Jim told me about his bipolar disorder, and that he had been homeless for a long time. I hadn't even started cutting his hair yet and he was already pouring his heart out. I find that most people are just thankful to have someone to talk to because every day they are overlooked and feel like they are invisible to other people. I wish I had a video of Jim's face after I cut his hair as he looked into the mirror! It makes me smile so big thinking about how happy he was to look cleaned up. That feeling I get when I make people feel better I cherish! Much love and luck to Jim. ❤️#haircutsforthehomeless #itsmorethenjustahaircut #barberlove #hairdresser #giveback #hopeinhumanity #domore #justgive #faith #hope #love ##dosomthingfornothing

A post shared by Laura Faehner Reed (@lauraonthestreet) on

Coming from an upscale, manicured salon, Laura might seem out of place on the street with her shears and barber cape near homeless shelters or in alleyways. But she can relate to people like James because she’s faced tough times herself.

“I feel like I can identify with people because I know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel, to not have anything, to not trust anyone, to hate yourself,” she said.

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As a teen, she moved from home to home and lived out of a paper bag. She’s also battled depression throughout her life.

“I didn’t think I would live past 16. I didn’t plan on being here today,” she said.

Those difficult experiences help her empathize with people who are experiencing their own hardships and don’t have much spare cash for something like a haircut. That’s why, in addition to the haircuts, she started collections at the salon so she can bring along food, backpacks and other items to help with other small expenses.

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Besides helping people look more polished and feel better about themselves, Laura also provides a commodity that can be in short order for people living on the streets—human connection.

“Some people haven’t been talked to in so long. It brings out so many emotions for people and it’s just the power of love and it’s the power of human touch. It’s very powerful,” she said.

You can follow Laura’s journey at her Instagram here.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online. The crisis text line provides 24/7 support (Text 741-741)