Image: Astrodome haircut
Stan Honda  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Hurricane Katrina evacuee Avante Lewis, 4, gets his hair cut by volunteer Jymmarkeus Johnson on Tuesday in a hallway of the Astrodome in Houston.
updated 9/8/2005 8:20:51 AM ET 2005-09-08T12:20:51

In the dark tunnels underneath the Astrodome, volunteer barbers and stylists have set up a shop where Katrina's refugees can get a shave or have their hair done for free before they set out to rebuild their lives.

"What they are doing is priceless," said storm survivor Keith Anderson, a 41-year-old probation officer who waited in line for a shave and a haircut he hoped would help him find a new home and a job.

"It could be the make-or-break of getting that job. Obviously, your appearance matters. It helps with your self-esteem. You definitely, definitely want to put your best foot forward."

About 8,000 storm victims from New Orleans are sleeping on cots and standing in line for showers at the Astrodome complex.

Styling until early hours of the morning
After seeing the refugees' misery, stylist Terry Walter and his sister, Tiffany, offered their services and recruited a few more stylists and barbers, all of whom are donating their services and equipment.

Walter and his sister often stay until 4 a.m. each day, cutting, conditioning, coloring, shaving and curling refugees' hair.

"I was at home in tears, and I don't have too much stuff affect me like that, but when you see so many people broken up, you know sometimes a good haircut will put a smile on somebody's face," Terry Walter said. "It just makes me feel good."

Impromptu counseling is included. Tears rolled down Annette Massey's face as she recalled that Saturday was her missing daughter's 18th birthday. Terry Walter applied a treatment to her hair, called her "sweetie" and offered a reassuring smile.

Looking good, feeling good
"Some of us don't have any money to get our hair done and we need to get our hair back straightened out like it used to be because of the water that we was in," Massey said. "We needed to get the hair cut and get it back healthy-looking."

Elaine Davis, a 32-year-old mother of six, said: "If you look good, you feel good. It is going to give me some sense of taking charge and taking my life back."

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