Philadelphia Barber Says Police Ordered Him to Stop Giving Free Haircuts to the Homeless
"I won't let it discourage me in any way ... I'm just focused on providing a service for the less fortunate," Brennon Jones, 30, tells PEOPLE
A Philadelphia barber is looking for answers after he says police demanded he stop giving free haircuts to homeless people at his outdoor shop.
Brennon Jones, 30, says he was cutting hair between 8th and Market streets in Center City on April 10 when a Philadelphia police officer approached his chair and told him to “shut down immediately” without giving a reason why.
“I told him I wouldn’t shut down until I got more information,” Jones tells PEOPLE, adding that he was “upset” and “confused.” “The whole initiative is built around the homeless. I don’t just give them haircuts — I feed them, I clothe them and provide them with toiletries as well.”
Jones first made headlines in 2017 after he launched his haircut project, servicing the city’s homeless population outside on the sidewalk. The effort has drawn praise from Mayor Jim Kenney, and Philadelphia City Hall gave the man permission to set up his makeshift barber shop on local streets, according to KYW-TV.
With that, Jones says he was shocked when the officer approached him that day. Video footage of the incident shared on social media showed the officer talking to Jones then hovering in the area as he made phone calls and attempted to get Jones to leave. The footage has been viewed more than 715,000 times.
“I was a little fearful,” he tells PEOPLE. “At the time … I was cutting my fifth person.”
In the end, the officer permitted Jones to continue the project but told him to make sure he cleaned up any hair left behind. Jones says he was left confused and hasn’t received any explanation from police since the incident. Now he’s unsure whether he’ll have another run-in with police in the future.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Philadelphia police said that the officer told Jones to “cease due to complaints from businesses about loose hair on the street.”
“Barber was not shut down, not cited, not moved,” authorities said.
However, Jones tells PEOPLE there aren’t any businesses close enough to his makeshift shop to be affected by any loose hairs. He adds that he has a helper clean up after Jones gives the cuts.
“I feel as though that may have just been their excuse to clear their name,” the barber says. “[The officer] didn’t say they’d receive any complaints, he didn’t say there was hair blowing, he just said, ‘You have to shut down immediately.’ ”
Jones says he cuts hair around the city every day from about 11 a.m. until sunset and sets up shop between 8th and Market streets twice a month. In 2017, he was famously given a barbershop space by a local shop owner. However, he tells PEOPLE the agreement didn’t work out and Jones only used the shop for up to eight months before taking his services back out onto the street.
“Issues come and go. It may be the cops one day. It may be somebody else the next day,” Jones says. “I won’t let it discourage me in any way … I’m just focused on providing a service for the less fortunate.”