Hairstylist Dustin Berlin took to the streets to cut hair for the homeless and found himself in a world of endless potential. When he sensed the isolation of a homeless man sitting in the park, he joined him and began a conversation about life. Next step? Dustin cut this man’s hair, brushed it and showed him a mirror. This fellow was visibly overwhelmed with love, felt cared for and felt decent. “Restoring decency,” Dustin says, “changes the way people value themselves socially and individually how they interact with society based on how they are accepted. Restoring people is a way of acknowledging they have something good and something to be restored to.”
Then came the mothers with children. Deciding to share this with a larger audience, posting an invitation on Facebook for people to come join him, he found himself with a team that set to work. Dustin talks about taking his skills from parks to Skid Row, “sometimes crazy and sometimes scary, but I loved it.”
He left his job at the Newport Beach salon for a full-time partnership with the homeless that led to an even larger world as he joined with shelters that offer complete programs for restoration. He now includes veterans who have returned injured as well as survivors of domestic violence, all of whom need to be returned to their strongest selves. His non-profit You First, will carry his work further yet. “We are selling generosity,” he says, “and they are buying volunteerism.”
In the area of love expressed, Dustin cuts hair once every 6 weeks at a salon in Northern California just for friends and family, what he calls his golden relationships. His actual love letter? Maybe to his mother, also a hairstylist who styled hair while taking care of the whole person. She was his inspiration and sadly passed away before she had a chance to see Dustin’s enormous mark in this world. Maybe also some to himself over time as a way of documenting this enormous enterprise based on one man’s love of restoring people? We at Love Letters Live hope he does all of them.