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SLO County women in crisis gain confidence with free makeovers

Inside the Moon River salon on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, smiles radiated wall to wall as women on a journey out of crisis received free makeovers on Sunday.

“It’s really nice to be pampered,” Alisabeth Mandujal, who is living at a transitional facility in Grover Beach, said. “I’m doing the work on my inner self and it’s really nice to have someone else help with my outer.”

Manicures, hair styles, lipstick and back rubs are the epitome of pampering and 30 women got to experience it all Sunday, many of them for the first time.

“I’ve been homeless, I’ve had nothing,” Carolina Hill, who is living in transitional housing in Paso Robles said. “I took showers in the sink at a McDonald’s bathroom.”

After years of failed foster care placements, Hill found herself with nowhere to call home.

“It seemed pretty much impossible to get off the streets,” Hill said.

Now at age 24, Hill has been sober for two years, she’s employed and enrolled in school.

Hill’s memories of hard times are shared by Amber Bishop, who had her children taken from her by state child welfare workers when she was in the throes of addiction.

“I had to listen to my kids ask where we were gonna sleep, where we were gonna eat,” Bishop said.

These women are now on the path to a better life, a difficult journey that takes perseverance and confidence.

“When you’re going through the hardest time of your life, the last thing you think of is getting yourself dolled up,” Hilary Motley, the co-founder of The Morph Project said.

Motley knows from experience how difficult it is to find housing and employment as a homeless person dealing with addiction, which is why she started The Morph Project two years ago to give back.

Motley started the program with co-founder Hilary Tish to help reflect in the mirror the changes these women are making in their lives.

“When I get self care like this, I can actually smile and not feel like I’m just putting on a show for the girls,” Hill said. “I can smile and it be genuine.”

It’s a true sense of happiness that outlasts the makeover.

“They leave knowing that like, ‘wow, somebody cared about me,'” Tish said. “The haircut and clothes are amazing, but that’s the core of what this is.”

Moon River Salon donated its space, 15 local stylists gave their time and talents, and several local restaurants contributed free food to the event for the women to enjoy.

Aja Goare

Aja Goare

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