Only twenty years ago, Vanessa Howard knew the pain of being homeless. She was a single mother who struggled to take care of her three children in Tampa, Florida. At one point, she had as little as $1.75 in her pocket.

Vanessa grew up in what she called a “drug infested” home, and soon became a victim of domestic abuse. She became pregnant as a teenager and took to the streets, not knowing where else to turn. When the strain became too much to bear, she collapsed, recalling it by saying “I cried out one day,” and “I was tired of being homeless, tired of being alone and prayed for help.”

Just when everything seemed hopeless, she found a way forward being offered by someone she least expected. While looking for an apartment for herself and her three children, she expected to find only more disappointment. Instead, she found a landlord who was willing to give her a chance at a fresh start. She remembers him saying “I don’t know you, but I feel like you should have this place.”

It was exactly the chance Vanessa needed.

She was able to work at various local hair salons to earn enough money to support her children. Hairdressing became her new career, and she excelled at it. She worked hard and gave it her all to keep her clients satisfied. The result was the birth of the Giving Hands Beauty Salon, which Vanessa opened, both to expand her career as well as to help others.

As a major part of her business, Vanessa strives to offer help to those who face hardships, as she had so early in her life. To make good, she comes in every Sunday to offer free haircuts to the homeless, hoping to help them to get back on their feet. Vanessa says, “We want them to feel good about themselves,” and believes that how they look should be the last thing they need to worry about.

She now has five daughters, who all help in the effort, knowing that their lives could have been far different without the helping hand of a stranger. It’s become a true family labor of love. Along with a group of volunteers, they’ve already seen to the needs of 300 women and children.

Vanessa has no plans to stop offering help to those who need it, planning to make the free services available for years to come. Her empathy and desire to be a positive force in the lives of others is something we should all aspire to.

If we all can open our hearts to those in need, our world will be a better place for us all, please SHARE this article to spread the word!

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