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82 year old barber who has given free haircuts to the homeless in exchange for hugs told to leave.

Anthony 'Joe the Barber' Cymerys
Anthony ‘Joe the Barber’ Cymerys

An 82 year old barber who has given free haircuts to the homeless in a city park in exchange for hugs has been told to leave by police and health officials.

It all happened this past week when Anthony ‘Joe the Barber’ Cymerys turned up at Bushnell park, Hartford, CT where he has been a fixture for the last 25 years and told to leave on account that he and accompanying friends who would give away food to the needy were told they had to leave because they did not have permits.

Told Joe the Barber: “I thought it was a drug raid, honest to God. It was the peanut gallery on TV where everyone was watching.”

City health officials goes on to tell abcnews that 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 went on to note that Cymerys is not a licensed barber.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra nevertheless went on later to offer Joe the Barber 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 wanted.

Cymerys, who learned how to cut hair growing up and isn’t a licensed barber, said he wasn’t completely surprised by officials’ actions because they’ve asked him before to leave the park and other areas.

Telling how he likes to take health precautions including soaking his trimmers in alcohol.

“Twenty-five years I’ve been giving haircuts, and no one died on me.”

Friends have since gone on to  question the city’s actions, saying officials kicked him out of the park only a year after honoring him for his humanitarian work.

Reflected George Pfuetzner“It’s kind of ironic that a year ago the mayor was giving him a citation for all the good work he’s been doing with the homeless there and they kick us out.”

In the end one is inclined to wonder if this has more to do with the community’s inclination to free up the area of what it may perceive to be less than desirable elements in the guise of one man not having a permit license, not that has been an issue these last 25 years. Then again it just may well be the fear of attracting more homeless people to the community to take advantage of services that other communities are reluctant or unable to provide, which of course raises the question, why?