Last week, I took a leap of faith on Charles Lewis, a homeless man who claimed he lost his new job managing a barber shop on NW 62 Street and 18 Ave because of my article “Break the Habit.” He says the shop’s owner rescinded the offer this past July 6 after seeing a photograph of Lewis in last week’s Miami New Times.
The image shows Lewis listening to John Schmidt, the subject of “Break the Habit,” outside the building that houses the James E. Scott Community Association transition and stabilization program in Liberty City.
“When I didn’t want to answer his question if I had used drugs, he didn’t want me to work there,” Lewis said when we met in the reception area of the New Times office at 2800 Biscayne Boulevard on July 9.
Lewis had been living at Umoja Village until it burnt down. Luckily, he found a bed at JESCA. “I would like to know if there are any benefits I can receive from losing my job opportunity,” Lewis rhapsodized.
Even though Lewis acknowledged he granted New Times permission to snap his picture, I felt bad for the guy. Maybe he was yanking my chain. But I felt sincerity in his words. I wasn’t going to give him any money, I told him. “Well I can get a barber station at the 79th Street Flea Market,” Lewis said. “All I need is the tools, you know, the hair clippers.”
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The following morning, I met Lewis at a beauty and hair supply store across the street from JESCA. He picked out a set of electric hair clippers, a mirror, a barber’s cape and a sanitizing cream for the clippers. Total price: $59.00, plus two bucks so Lewis could take the bus to the flea market. “You should let him cut your hair,” I told the shop owner, pointing at Lewis. “He’s a great barber.”
Outside the shop, a beaming Lewis thanked me. “This is really going to help me man,” he said. “I really appreciate it.”
“Just believe in yourself and keep your head up,” I replied. Lewis nodded affirmatively and walked across the street. He disappeared through JESCA’s blue front doors. --Francisco Alvarado