BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In recent months, the boys and sometimes men who walk through busy street corners, spraying and wiping windshields for money, known as the “squeegee boys” have become a growing concern for some Baltimore.
Mayor Catherine Pugh announced her vision to get kids off those street corners once and for all. It’s a plan she said will not only get them off the streets but provide them with a better future.
An 11-year-old boy says he does it because he’s in school and just wants to be able to buy things for himself, and a 23-year-old man said he does it to provide for his young family.
The mayor said she expects to pay for this program with help from the private sector. She also mentioned that she supports the new initiative downtown for unarmed security guards to keep tabs on the “squeegee kids”. She said they are there not just to keep the kids but other vendors safe and out of traffic.
An 11-year-old boy asked to not be identified but gave a rare glimpse Monday into a culture that has been captivating headlines in recent weeks, most based on concern of children skipping school and large groups blocking traffic and intimidation, as well as violence toward drivers.
The boy said he’s doing it for a number of reasons when asked why he stands out there.
“I tell them ’cause I want to feed the homeless people and I want to save up extra money so when I want something I could be able to buy it myself,” The 11-year-old said.
He also said his parents have encouraged it.
“instead of stealing from people and rob people and stuff just go squeegee, just be good, don’t yell at people, don’t bust nobody windows,” He said.
Pugh said the issue has been something the city has faced since the 80s. Pugh wrote an op-ed about the issue Monday, and revealed a roughly $2 million-a-year plan to get them off the street corners.
The yet-to-be-named program would function similarly to one called “Youthworks”, where children and even adults would get job training and social service needs.
The difference- it would be year-round.
“Engage them in productive activities, opportunities to make money, opportunities to work,” Pugh said.
That’s just what 23-year-old “squeegee boy” said he is looking for.
“Find a way that you can reconstruct our minds and do other things than be out here,” The 23-year-old said.
For him, cleaning windows is a job that provides for him and his two babies at home.
At his age, he said he also tries to keep the younger boys in line when drivers lash out.
“Walk away cool, go to the next car, you arguing with that car that could have stopped you from getting $20 from the next car,” The 23-year-old said.
The mayor’s plan seems enticing to some of the “squeegee boys”, while others are choosing to wait and see.
“They want us off the streets then they’re gonna have to put something on the table worthwhile,” The 23-year-old said.