Viewing homelessness in Farragut, Burgin sees huge value in Carecuts

A haircut for a homeless person can be life-changing, as Carecuts board member Janette Burgin related to Rotary Club of Farragut during the club’s meeting in Farragut Community Center Wednesday, May 8.

As Burgin drove home one night, she noticed little lights twinkling in the woods as she got off at the Campbell Station exit. She also observed lights at other locations near Interstate 40/75.

“We have citizens in the woods, under the bridges, in the alleys,” she said. “They’re under-reported because they’re transient.

“Knoxville has 3,000 homeless people currently,” Burgin added. “Eight hundred of them are ages 18 to 24. Fifteen percent are veterans who have served our country.”

Burgin’s own journey with the homeless started after a chance meeting with Carecuts founder Martha “Marti” Baker in 2016.

Baker had a vision to cut the hair of homeless people and asked Burgin to help — and Carecuts began.

“It has been the wildest ride of my life,” Burgin said. “This affected my life so much.

“Within 60 days (of their meeting), we were cutting the hair of the homeless,” she added.

The effort started under a bridge, serving 65 people. “All Marty wanted to do was cut their hair and give them their dignity back,” she said. But the efforts did not end there.

“What we have found, as Carecuts grew, is we wanted to cut their hair, and that was the carrot that they came to us with, but they spent the day with us and we learned about them, and we got to know their stories,” Burgin said.

“You see, you can do a pop-up under the bridge and they blitzkrieg the bridge,” she added. “We wanted to do something different, so we got to know them.

“And, it grew from there. Each time we met, we got to know them better, and some wouldn’t leave.”

She recalled one woman who lingered, then hugged one of the volunteers and said, “I came today because I was going to die today, and I wanted to look nice in my casket in case one of my children came to the funeral.

“Talking about meeting people where they are,” Burgin added. “She said, ‘I’ll look for you. I’ll be back,’ and she came back … she reunited with her children, got a job, got a car and began to live again.”

Carecuts also provides food; personal and survival needs, such as toiletries and sleeping bags; and clothing.

The organization’s volunteers are there to listen to the person’s needs and hopes.

Through Carecuts services, Burgin said more than 500 people have been able to find housing. In partnership with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ office, who provided a vehicle, Care Cuts assists people in finding a job and provides transportation to and from that job.

For more information, visit Carecuts’ website at