(BALTIMORE – July 19, 2022) – One of the last few weeks’ most extensive discussions or questions was, “what do we do with the squeegee problem in Baltimore City? “The problem has been longstanding, and many Baltimore Mayors have had to tackle the squeegee kid problem. It was not until recently, with an altercation between a squeegee kid and a motorist, which turned deadly, that sparked a more intense level of conversation.
Let us call squeegee activity what it is actually- panhandling by disguise. Everyone knows that the service provided is not necessarily needed because the car has the function of cleaning the windshields. This kind of service was once offered with an oil check and a windshield cleaning at the gas or filling stations.
There are no health benefits, retirement plans, or other work benefits associated with squeegee work. We must transition our young people to entrepreneurial or career training. I understand that everyone does not and will not attend college; however, we must continue to support those interested in college while preparing all others for another pathway to success.
What are the plans for the squeegee young men and young women? We must come up with a comprehensive plan to address this perplexing issue. The real problem for young people is money. Many young people squeegee for cash. For example, when I was working in a high school called KASA in Walbrook Junction, I would go and retrieve students, who left school to earn lunch money by way of performing squeegee work. I called them back into school and paid for their lunches. This was a short-term fix because many went back after school. Again, what is a transition plan for these young people? I recommend that we explore the following options:
1. We teach financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills through youth job and development plans.
2. The Mayor (through his community outreach) speaks with shop owners and develops a plan to have a team of squeegee workers clean the windows of main street businesses through an RFP process.
3. To keep students in school, why not explore a bridge program, not for college, but for something similar to Job Corps. Students can stay in school and get a diploma while obtaining a skill with the partnership of the Job Corps organization. The organization will assist with job readiness skills and job placement.
4. Explore credit recovery with support for those that have dropped out and provide actual counseling to get them back on track.
5. Develop a Youth Job Development Training Center designed strictly for youth where it is non-threatening and youth friendly.
6. We must reengage with our disengaged youth and provide mental health support to our youth. Many of the children have experienced the trauma of some kind.
In conclusion, we cannot arrest our way out of these social conditions. We must work to bring adequate solutions to this pressing problem called squeegee kids. We must provide sufficient resources and support on all levels; we must connect young people with meaningful mentors or someone they will listen to for advice and guidance. As a result of many families facing economic hardships, we must provide students opportunities to work and earn a diploma (School-to-Work Program/ Learn and Earn Program). These suggestions are the panacea to this perplexing and generational problem called squeegee kids; however, this is a jump start to the conversation.
Dr. Kevin W. Parson, DHA, M.A., M.S., M.A.T., M.Ed