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Local barber who once experienced homelessness gives back at annual Homeless Stand Down event in Cleveland

By Remi Murrey

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    CLEVELAND (WEWS) — Cleveland’s 32nd Annual Homeless Stand Down event kicked off Saturday; hundreds of volunteers and more than 80 nonprofit organizations and service providers attended the event.

We’re following through on a story we told you about earlier this month.

It involves recent data from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless citing inflation, rising prices and the growing cost of rent in Greater Cleveland as the primary reasons there’s been an increase in people falling into homelessness.

Because of this report, there are hundreds of people stepping in to help at events like Saturday’s 32nd Annual Homeless Stand Down in Cleveland.

“This one-day event can literally change the lives of so many people,” said Waverly Willis, the executive director of the Urban Barber Association.

Waverly Willis told News 5 that his passion to give free haircuts at Saturday’s event goes beyond his talents as a barber. He says it stems from his own experience of having been homeless.

“It’s near and dear to my heart because I used to be one of the people that came down here for the resources when I was dealing with a severe alcohol and drug addiction,” said Willis.

Despite his circumstances, Willis continued to show up for himself by attending this same event that he credits to saving his life.

“This resource, it connected me with a lot of people from shelters, organizations, centers that were able to get me the help,” said Willis.

Now, he and Byron ‘Sund Down’ Grant, who also once was homeless, use their testimony to inspire others.

“I go to Jesus and pray. Pray. If he can make a way for me, He can make a way for you,” said Grant.

After hearing these stories from Grant and Willis, Business Volunteers Unlimited Elizabeth Voudouris said it motivates her to give back.

“Today is really meaningful,” said Voudouris.

Hundreds of volunteers and dozens of nonprofit organizations offered free haircuts, medical and dental care, along with free clothing Saturday.

“Homelessness is a very serious issue in our community. We’re not going to solve it in one day, but by bringing everyone together we’re raising awareness and we’re giving people access to resources and information that they can use today and maybe in their future journey,” said Voudouris.

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