Homelessness remains a major epidemic in America and the world, and it's only getting worse. As homelessness spikes during these uncertain times, it can be easy to feel helpless in the face of mounting poverty. While there are tons of charities and major organizations you can assist in their efforts to eradicate homelessness, one Majorcan stylist proved that single acts of kindness can change lives. A homeless man becomes viral sensation after receiving a shocking makeover: see how his life has changed.
Jose Antonio, known as Josete to Majorcan locals in the city he has called home for over 25 years, had been living on the streets for over three decades before an act of kindness changed his life. With his scruffy beard and overgrown hair, Josete was well known to locals for parking cars as an unlicensed parking attendant to try to make enough money to live and for sleeping on stone steps in a square in the town of Palma. "Parking cars and being like that does not make anyone happy," Josete told the Daily Mail.
Josete was 55 years old when he received his makeover, but despite his youth and able-body, he had still found himself homeless for nearly half of his life. Jose affirmed that he never had problems with drugs or alcohol addiction and that any health issues were the result of his homelessness, not the cause. Jose found himself in these dire conditions due to his struggles with depression, an ailment that affects more than 264 million people of all ages according to the World Health Organization. Jose's depression was bad enough that he found himself living on the streets.
But depression wasn't the only cause of Josete's homelessness. He attributed his lack of housing to a succession of bad luck spread over the past 25 years before his stunning makeover, which led other locals to compare him to George Clooney. Before becoming homeless, Jose was an electrician who grew up on another island paradise, Gran Canaria. This makeover was the stroke of good luck Jose needed to turn things around, with Jose saying that the change of looks changed his life because his newfound interest in his appearance translated to an interest in his own well-being.
The largest island in the Balearic Islands, Majorca is a part of Spain located in the Mediterranean. Palma is the autonomous community's capital and an extremely popular vacation destination for tourists from Germany and the United Kingdom. The New York Times has even covered the island as a wildly popular holiday local, and its international airport, Palma de Mallorca Airport, is one of the busiest in Spain. An easy weekend getaway off the coast of mainland Spain, it's easy to think that nothing bad could ever happen on this island paradise.
The Majorca Daily Bulletin reported in 2017 that over 200 people were living on the streets of Majorca with no income or home to call their own. Despite Majorca's reputation as a luxurious and wealthy island paradise, a team of volunteers learned there were at least 209 homeless people living in Majorca's street, and 144 of those displaced individuals have been living on the island for over a decade. Only 84 are Spanish nationals, with the rest coming from other European Union countries, Africa, or South America. In the two years since the report was published, the homelessness issue has likely only increased.
Salva Garcia is the owner of local hair salon La Salvajeria, and he had seen Josete around the town square for many years before Josete had agreed to a makeover by the skilled stylist. "I had been telling Josete for a while that I could do his hair and beard for him and one day he said 'yes,'" Salva told the Daily Mail in an 18 month revisit of the makeover that changed Jostete's life. Salva also called Josete a "fantastic guy," and is pleased about how this makeover has completely turned things around for the man.
When he wasn't staying in the Palma town square or parking cars on the street, Jose was living in an abandoned home. At the time the video of Jose's stunning makeover was shot, Jose was squatting in the abandoned home with no access to running water, cooking facilities, or a shower. The house was brought down by recent floods in the area, but thanks to his stunning makeover, Jose has been able to find new accommodations that are actually suitable for living. Jose said there was no way he could have found accommodation before his makeover because he would have been turned away.
Before Jose's transformation, squatting was on the rise in Spain. According to Newsweek, thousands of people have been squatting in vacant apartments throughout the country because of a lack of public housing in Spain. There has been a glut of repossessed apartments with no residents staying empty while Spain's 4.25 million unemployed citizens struggle to find affordable housing, a rare commodity amongst an imbalanced housing market, greedy landlords, and unsympathetic private banks. Sadly, new squatting rules passed by the Spanish Senate has made it much easier to evict illegal squatters from their makeshift homes.
We all know the power of a good makeover. Not only is it a popular television and film trope amongst teen girls — like Brittany Murphy's makeover in Clueless or Rachael Leigh Cook's geek-to-chic transformation in She's All That — but real-life makeovers have been changing lives in the media, as well. Queer Eye's 2018 reboot has helped dozens of people over its five seasons and special through cooking tutorials, home refurbishing, and Jonathan Van Ness's grooming makeovers. That's not to mention other makeover TV shows like What Not to Wear, Extreme Makeover, and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.
Even if we didn't have dozens of television shows and movies proving the power of an awesome, drastic makeover, we know a good haircut can be a major confidence boost. Why do you think there's a stereotype of women changing their hair after bad breakups? And confidence is the only thing we all need to fake it 'til we make it in love, life, and our careers. Harvard Business Review has said that "very few people succeed in business without a degree of confidence," while Forbes has pointed out that confidence can boost your self-esteem and your career.
While all of us can find new confidence in a makeover, for the homeless population, a makeover can open doors to a new life. Without facing the prejudice and stigma of "looking homeless," displaced persons can rent apartments or get jobs as they blend into housed society. The Salvation Army has offered haircuts as part of their Homeless Connect day for over a decade both to help the homeless apply to jobs and to show them basic human compassion. The Salvation Army has a ton of problems (like with homophobia, unpaid labor, and abuse), but that doesn't mean their Homeless Connect day hasn't done a ton of good.
End Homelessness estimates that a total of 552,830 Americans were experiencing homelessness per night in 2018, which roughly equates to 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. The homeless population is 70 percent male, like Jose, and African Americans and American Indians are overrepresented in the homeless community compared to their percentage of the general population. 67 percent of homeless individuals in the United States are individuals, but the remaining 33 percent are families with children. Additionally, 7 percent of the homeless population are individual youths under 25, and 18 percent of the homeless population are chronically homeless.
The first rescue mission in the United States was the New York City Rescue Mission, which was founded all the way back in 1872. There have been multiple surges of homelessness throughout the United States' history, such as after the American Civil War, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession, and Jack London's 1903 novel The People of the Abyss raised public awareness of homelessness in England. By 2005, an estimated 100 million people worldwide were experiencing homelessness and 1 billion people were either squatters, refugees, or lacking adequate housing.
So, in case you thought the United States was the only country experiencing a centuries-long homelessness epidemic, think again. In reality, it's a pandemic affecting people worldwide. Yale University's studies on homelessness estimates that two percent of the world's population is homeless, while another 20 percent lacks adequate housing. That's 22 percent of the world, nearly a quarter of humanity, living without basic shelter. While many homeless people do suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or displacement caused by natural disasters, many people able-minded and -bodied with jobs also struggle to find housing. It could happen to anyone.
You would think that modern innovations would have reduced the number of people experiencing homelessness worldwide, but the homelessness pandemic has actually gotten *worse* in recent years. Despite some cities, like Los Angeles, approving taxes to address homelessness, launching new programs, and declaring a state of emergency, Medium explains that people are losing their housing more quickly than we can house them. For example, there has been a 12 percent increase of unhoused people in Los Angeles county within the past year, proving that we are not doing enough to combat this crisis.
FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, released a pamphlet in Spring 2019 on the state of emergency shelters in the European Union that revealed homelessness in Europe has increased at an alarming rate: 70 percent in the past decade. That's 700,000 homeless people sleeping either on the streets or in emergency temporary accommodations provided by their countries. Despite increases in the availability of emergency accommodations in many European countries, the shortage of affordable housing for all has caused what FEANTSA calls a "housing exclusion scandal" in Europe.
FEANTSA revealed that in Spain, the number of people in emergency temporary accommodation increases daily by 20.5 percent, reaching 16,437 in the mid-2010s. Still, Spain's lack of public housing is a major aggravator in their homelessness crisis. Apartments repossessed by banks during Europe's financial crisis sit empty, with banks and landlords holding onto new buildings that become unsellable following the recession until they find tenants that can pay their unreasonable prices. In face, only 1 percent of Spain's housing is subsidized for those in need, making it the second-lowest amount of available housing. The only country with worse conditions is Greece, the heart of Europe's financial crisis.
After three decades of homelessness, Jose was given a new lease on life after this homeless man became a viral sensation. His life drastically changed following this shocking makeover, and both La Salvajeria and the filmmaking crew were happy to chat with Jose 18 months after his drastic change. "I doubt any of these changes would have happened if it wasn't for the help of people like the hair salon owner and other locals who have assisted me to get back on my feet," Jose said. "I'll be eternally grateful to them."
La Salvajeria posted a video of Jose's transformation in honor of the salon's third birthday in 2017, and the then-unknown man became an overnight sensation. Despite the transformation occurring nearly two years before the video's release, Jose was known as "Homeless Man Becomes Viral Sensation" after the video was shared across social media platforms. Jose's openness to change, willingness to start over, and emotional response to his new look touched the hearts of millions who were excited to learn what the formerly homeless man was up to since his transformation.
In the video, Jose tells the salon to leave the doors over the mirrors open for a moment so he can see himself at his worst for one last moment, then to close them during his transformation. He wanted the doors to open again on his new self as if something else opened in his life, like a symbol. When he's shown the results, he cries tears of joy, saying, "F*ck. My God, this is incredible. Is this me? I'm so different, no-one's going to recognise me unless I tell them who I am."
And Josete's assumption was correct. As he walked down the streets he used to sleep on, women stopped to compliment him on his looks, locals who had been let in on the secret gasped in astonishment, and a local bar owner served him a beer without realizing who he was. One local quipped, "Where's your Ferrari, mate?" because the transformation was so luxurious and handsome. "'I'm confident I'll never go back to the way I looked," Jose said to Daily Mail after the fact. "I like the way I am now. I feel it's me."
Salva Garcia, the owner of La Salvajeria salon, said he had been trying to help Josete for years as a resident of Palma. And help him he did! Salva trimmed Josete's hair and beard, dyed his hair, and plucked his eyebrows. He also gave Jose a pair of designer sunglasses for his grand neighborhood debut to better surprise other locals who did not recognize Jose after his stunning transformation. That style has carried over into Jose's day-to-day style, as he did his interview in matching denim pants and a denim top, with a stylish messenger bag to match.
Jose and Salva let film producer Dr. Filmgood record the process and Jose's reaction, but the video wasn't posted on Facebook until La Salvajeria's third birthday, in celebration of the salon's third year. Hopefully, the good deed (and the great look!) brought La Salvajeria a ton of new business — they are still located in Palma, Majorca if anyone is in the neighborhood and wants to check it out! "The physical transformation has definitely led to a change to many things in his life," Salva said 18 months after Jose's transformation.
Since his physical transformation (and his happier outlook on life!), Jose found accommodations and is no longer homeless. He uses the money he makes parking cars to pay for rent on a room in a house. "There was no way I could have found accommodation before. I would have been turned away," Jose said. "I'm now living in a room in a shared house which costs me around £175 with the electricity included." Just the change in his appearance was enough for Jose to take a big step towards a happier life. "Now I can get a shower whenever I want and a good night's sleep," he said.
Jose is still parking cars, but now he's putting that £17.50 per day to good use by paying his rent and planning for the future. It isn't his ultimate goal, but he's fully committing himself to his work so he can make the most of where he is know. "It's obviously not what I really want to be doing if there's something else available," Jose said of his current gig. "I don't have a particular preference. I can guarantee I'll give 110 per cent whatever I end up doing." He's waiting for his health problems to be solved to look for permanent employment, but he's making good ground.
Outside of his work parking cars, the Daily Mail also said he's currently being supported by an anonymous benefactor, although he still actively wants to find employment in addition to his gig parking cars and his mysterious helper. The tabloid outlet did not expand on how Jose is being supported by this benefactor or how much, but the good Samaritan is clearly doing a great job helping out this man until he can fully get back on his feet — Josete looks handsome and healthy as ever in his stylish clothes and rings.
And Jose is actively treating his various ailments so he can continue this forward momentum! His new belief in himself and investment in his outward appearance has led him to seek help for his hearing problems, issues with his feet, and treatment for cataracts. The change of looks has also helped him treat his depression, which had been the primary cause of his homelessness. His new accommodation and the help he's received from locals has allowed him to deal with his health problems, and Jose is making major strides including treatment for an ear infection and sores on his feet caused by vitamin deficiency.
The biggest improvement to his health is something that many people would consider nothing short of a miracle. Josete was virtually blind due to cataracts (and presumably other issues) when the video of him, AKA a homeless man becomes viral sensation, was first taken. But after two operations, Jose has regained his eyesight and can see perfectly. It's amazing that something as simple and kind as a generous stylist giving a homeless man a haircut and trimming his beard could begin a chain of events that gives him back his eyesight. Never think your small or medium-sized gestures don't matter!
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"I'd ended up like a vegetable, not worrying about what I ate or how I looked," Jose had said of his descent into homelessness. His subsequent appearance of a scraggly beard and overgrown hair was a direct result of his lack of self-esteem. Now that he's seen what he could be, Jose is confident he will never go back to the way he looked before and feels like this is his true self. We must imagine that since the video of his transformation went viral, he's even more assured of his self worth and his commitment to being his best self.
Now that he's seen a brighter horizon ahead, at 55 years young, Josete is planning for the future. As mentioned earlier, once he's finished solving his health problems, he's going to be looking for what Jose refers to as a "proper job." His renewed sense of self has also led him to set another noble goal — to find a woman to love. And with looks compared to George Clooney, that will be no problem at all! Hopefully, Jose finds a wife he loves (and maybe even has a few adorable children, too)!
If anything can be learned from Jose's story, a Homeless Man Becomes Viral Sensation, it's that treating homeless people with human compassion can make a huge difference in their lives. Whether its donating your serves or just donating a smile, sometimes all it takes to set someone on a new path is a little help and a reminder that they are worthy of good things. If you're always treated poorly by people in the world, you'll begin to think it's the world that's set against you. Each little act of kindness can be the start of something new.
Of course, a handshake and a smile won't eradicate homelessness across the globe. As with many social issues, the greatest act of kindness is advocating for homeless people's rights through voting for legislation that will help them, staying educated on what upcoming bills can help or hurt the homeless population, and writing into your local representatives to ask for new policies to help eradicate homelessness in your city or town. If you don't live somewhere where voting is an option (or even if you do!), look into how you can volunteer with charitable organizations and get hands-on experience helping in your neighborhood.
There are an amazing number of charitable organizations and non-profits dedicated to helping the homeless. In the United States, there's the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In Virginia, Carpenter's Shelter has helped over 700 homeless families per year. Missouri's Beyond Housing provides assistance with education, economic development, job preparation, and health. Minnesota's CommonBond Communities is one of the largest providers of affordable rental homes in the Upper Midwest. And that's just a handful of local charities who treat homeless people with the respect they deserve — it's easy to find one in your neighborhood! And if you can't, maybe *you* can start the next great non-profit and help thousands.
Ending homelessness once and for all can feel like an impossible goal. After all, this pandemic has been around for hundreds of years and likely will be for hundreds more. Hopefully, we are the generation that can end homelessness. But if we aren't, it can be just as gainful to end homelessness for one person or family. Instead of looking through the next homeless person who approaches you on the street, give them a moment of your time. Give your talents. Give your love. Any one of us could find the next Jose and greatly improve another human's life, whether that's a Homeless Man Becomes Viral Sensation story, or just a Homeless Man Becomes Housed Man story.