Making a Difference!
HARTFORD, Conn. — An 82-year-old barber who has been giving free haircuts to the homeless in exchange for hugs for 25 years was granted permission by the mayor Thursday to keep working in a city park, despite orders to leave from police and health officials.
Anthony “Joe the Barber” Cymerys has been a fixture every Wednesday for years at Bushnell Park, where he cuts hair and his friends hand out food to the needy.
But shortly after Cymerys set up shop this week, he said, health officials and police confronted him and his friends and told them they had to leave because they didn’t have permits.
“I thought it was a drug raid, honest to God,” Cymerys said. “It was the peanut gallery on TV where everyone was watching.”
City health officials said they ordered Cymerys out of the park Wednesday after unnamed local residents expressed concerns about the “safety and sanitation” of Cymerys’ free haircuts to homeless people and his friends’ food distribution. They also noted that Cymerys is not a licensed barber.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra said later Thursday that he granted Cymerys a special dispensation in light of his years of charitable work. The spokeswoman, Maribel La Luz, said the city will help Cymerys obtain a state barber’s license if he likes.