When Giving Hands Beauty Salon opened its doors in 2013 in Tampa, Fla., there was no question that the goal would be to give back to those who needed it most — society’s most vulnerable and often overlooked.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Tampa had the highest rate of homelessness in the nation in 2016. Among its 16,000 homeless, one in five were children.
This came as no surprise to Vanessa Howard, founder of Giving Hands, who experienced homelessness nearly two decades ago with three children by her side.
“I’ve always wanted to own a salon back when I was a teenager,” Howard said. “When I moved to Florida in 2008 is when the Lord called me to actually open up a salon. He gave me the name Giving Hands Salon and asked me to open up a salon that would give back to the community.”
Howard, who also experienced domestic violence and depression, draws her compassion from the struggles that she’s faced and a need to help others.
“People don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care,” Howard said. “When people are going through [homelessness], they tend to not feel good about themselves.
“I believe when you look good on the outside, you feel good on the inside as well.”
But she wants others to know that Giving Hands does more than just change outward appearances.
Those who come in get a six-to-eight-hour beautification experience. Howard and employees work to build the self-esteem and well-being of all who come in, through prayer. At the end of each appointment, they receive a gift bag that contains bibles, journals and toiletries.
The salon also puts on events to reach out to more women in need, such as for victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and survivors of cancer.
One event that’s gaining attention is the Back to School Princess Party for homeless and foster children. The salon provides the students with school supplies, uniforms, if necessary, and a salon experience.
“God has given me a heart for the broken, the forgotten and the downcast,” Howard said.
In the future, Howard plans to open her own homeless shelter. She also plans to open a safe haven for women who are escaping domestic violence.
“I truly believe that our pain has purpose, but it’s what you do with what you go through that makes a difference,” Howard said.