Ink 180 of Oswego, Ill., has launched a mobile tattoo-removal unit. The unit, which consists of an RV and two retired ambulances, travels to sites around inner city Chicago on a weekly basis.
Chris Baker, the organization’s founder, operates a tattoo shop as well as a nonprofit organization that does free tattoo removals and cover-ups, in which he imposes a beautiful tattoo on top of already existing ink.
“Seventy percent of the work I do is free,” he says. “It’s tattoo removal and tattoo cover-ups for former gang members, former inmates, victims of sex trafficking and victims of domestic violence. I also do cover-ups for people who cut themselves.”
About one-quarter of the procedures he performs are cover-ups; the rest removals. “I don’t do any cover-up work on the hands or the neck, and that’s where most of the gang tattoos are,” Baker says. “We want people to go out and get a job. In the tattoo industry we call those tattoos job killers.”
Making it mobile
Baker is an outreach pastor who does street ministry in Chicago. He looks at his tattoo removal work and the mobile unit as an extension of this.
The idea for the mobile unit came about during a meeting last summer between Baker and the Illinois Health Department to discuss a new facility for his tattoo business. Department officials suggested a mobile unit. Although a good idea, it was something Baker thought might happen in the distant future. But thanks to the donation of an RV not too long afterwards, his organization was able to begin its mobile unit this spring.
Word spread, and soon Baker had received two more vehicles – retired ambulances. He and a group of volunteers go throughout the inner city of Chicago on a weekly basis and have also visited Detroit, Kansas City and Indianapolis.
How it works
A church, a ministry or other group will approach Ink 180 saying they have a number of people who want gang and other tattoos removed. He works with the churches to make it an event that may include various other organizations and providers offering services like GED preparation or dental care.
Tattoo removal appointments are made ahead of time, and he has two or three people ready to volunteer. He and his team can perform up to 20 removals per vehicle and have done a total of up to 60 removals per day.
Baker never charges for any of the tattoo removals or cover-ups done by the mobile unit or the nonprofit Ink 180 Ministry. He raises money from donations on his website and from the many churches and organizations where he does public speaking engagements. He also often receives donations from the clients of his for-profit tattoo business.
To learn more Chris Baker and Ink 180, visit the organization’s website at http://ink180.com/