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‘Squeegee kids’ — entrepreneurial spirits or a public menace? | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore, Md..--9/3/19-- Baltimore City youths work for tips washing car windshields. Known as "Squeegee kid," TF walks between cars stopped for the red light at the I-83 exit on North Avenue to offer their services. City officials and non-profit partners are trying to work on a new, more holistic approach to help the "squeegee people" to move from the street into other jobs.
Baltimore, Md..--9/3/19-- Baltimore City youths work for tips washing car windshields. Known as "Squeegee kid," TF walks between cars stopped for the red light at the I-83 exit on North Avenue to offer their services. City officials and non-profit partners are trying to work on a new, more holistic approach to help the "squeegee people" to move from the street into other jobs. (Kenneth K. Lam)

What did we do to our neighbors to deserve this?

I’m a long time resident of Baltimore City who loves the city. I have relatives in the city who go back to the late 1700s. They lived in the city, served in the War of 1812, built the row houses, helped rebuild after the Baltimore fire, and they loved the city, too. I was distraught to read in the Sunpapers editorial of Nov. 17, that Jim Brochin of Baltimore County is urging people to boycott Baltimore City because of aggressive squeegee kids (”‘Squeegee kids’ are a symptom of Baltimore’s problems, not the cause”).

Seems to me you call 911 to report aggressive kids, instead of asking people to economically strangle the good people of Baltimore. What did we do to our neighbors to deserve this? The poor people didn’t ask to be poor and stuck in economically depressed areas. The squeegee kids didn’t ask to have limited job opportunities where they have to work the streets. The restaurant and business owners didn’t ask for a devastating pandemic made worse by the previous presidential administration, which hated Baltimore.

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I strongly believe boycotting Baltimore City is bad for the entire metro area. Only when we consider ourselves one metro area and, with good faith, address together our shared issues of crime, drugs and race etc., will the region prosper.

Bob Brown, Baltimore

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A better and safer way for squeegee kids to make money

I love Baltimore! Born and raised in Baltimore, I moved several years ago, but visit often for business and pleasure. Our company has a Baltimore office. Let’s give the squeegee kids a better and safer way to make money. Have them pick up litter around the city in plastic bags, have multiple (daily) neighborhood drop off areas and pay them by the pound or bag. Doing so is a win, win, win! Squeegee kids off the corners, plastic bag reduction, and an immediate improvement in the city landscape and reputation.

Trish Adams, Salisbury

The Sun and Brochin are each ‘off base’

The Sun’s editorial “‘Squeegee kids’ are a symptom of Baltimore’s problems, not the cause” is off base. But so is Jim Brochin, the former state senator calling for a boycott of Baltimore City’s restaurants and shopping.

I have gone full circle with the squeegee men. I call them “men” because they are not kids. Very few of the windshield wipers I’ve encountered appear under 16 years of age. At first, I resented having my car sprayed with an unknown substance when I was clearly shaking my head no. But then I thoughtfully determined to help these young Black men, as they were out working trying to make a buck, and times are tough. So, at an intersection I frequently traffic, I started smiling and saying yes, keeping a buck handy. I had some very friendly exchanges. Some of the guys were really nice to me and grateful.

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But then, that intersection became popular, and I was finding my car surrounded by several young men, each wanting a dollar, and leaving liquid unwiped as soon as they got the buck, followed by a young man running afterward to my open window, almost sticking his head in crying excitedly, “I need a dollar for my brother!” looking at my open wallet. I felt things had gone over the line and I was opening myself to danger. So now, I avoid that intersection and go another way.

Mr. Brochin, however, suggests throwing the baby out with the bathwater and hurting the already struggling businesses in the city because the powers-that-be haven’t managed to figure out what to do about this issue. It is complex, racially charged and wrong to blame all the young men for the sins of a few. Plus, I’ve seen a few squeegees in the county, as well.

And, Mr. Brochin might open his mind to the fact that, while there are specific city/county lines, the further failure of Baltimore City will definitely come home to roost right on Baltimore County’s doorstep, and barge right in. You’re not that far away, Mr. Brochin.

Georgia Corso, Baltimore

Stop stewing, start doing

Instead of just stewing about the “squeegee kid” problem, why don’t we find ways of dealing with it? How about organizing them as a mini company? They’d have a uniform (say, a distinctive T-shirt) with the company name on it (“Sqwee-G Boyz”?), standards of conduct and a predetermined rate of cleaning per car. There would be a number (or even the kid’s name?) and company contact information, on each shirt so each kid could be reported for praise or complaints. Motorists would be more confident in getting courteous, reliable service, and the kids would get more business. If done right, it might even become a source of pride for the kids and the city. Has any community nonprofit considered anything like this?

The bigger problem is that these kids, most seem to be around high school age, are not acquiring any useful learning or job skills for hours each day. How much would it cost for a room (or rooms) in a community center or school, with one adult per room, that paid them a few dollars per hour to read, study, or learn to do a job? (Not minimum wage — just equivalent to what they’d make on the streets.) Could be win-win if they got off the streets and into some of the commercial jobs that are currently going unfilled.

Bradley Alger, Baltimore

Stop using the ‘race card,’ Sun

To paint Jim Brochin as a racist because he wants to get squeegee kids off the streets is beyond shameful, pathetic, and outright mean- spirited. Can’t you guys figure out that the race card won’t work anymore when you disagree with something?

Ann Roberts, Phoenix

Claiming squeegee reaction is race-based is racist

The recent editorial about squeegee kids is an example of The Sun’s constant excuses and false equivalents in its defense of the many problems plaguing Baltimore City. The editorial posits that some suburbanites “see Black males of a certain age immediately assume the worst” and further states that “no county politicians are calling for a boycott of the Girl Scouts or the local volunteer firefighters or other predominantly white groups who have been known to approach stopped vehicles for donations.” Those are blatantly racist statements, particularly given that The Sun acknowledges that the “aggressive panhandling” by many ‘squeegee kids’ has resulted in heated arguments and sometimes physical altercations.

Having been a suburbanite for decades, then living in Baltimore City for 12 years, I can attest to the fact that I have never felt threatened or put upon by Girl Scouts or firefighters of any race, but did experience those negatives in the city from “squeegee kids,” usually along Conway or President streets. Furthermore, during my years in the city I had two neighbors in my Patterson Park neighborhood who were brutally murdered by six “Black males of a certain age” (14-17) — enough cause for me to move away, not due to racism, but due to expecting a life that was not fraught with “heated arguments and physical confrontations” on the streets or in my neighborhood. I’ll take the Girl Scouts and volunteer firefighters any day.

Claire Corcoran, Annapolis

Don’t boycott Baltimore, boycott racists

The Editorial of Nov. 17 struck a chord with me. It was one more reminder of how the city of Baltimore suffers under the weight of racist attitudes. When folks use GoFundMe or other such platforms to get money, we salute their initiatives. When groups of “panhandlers” raise money for lacrosse teams or other activities, we gladly dip into our pockets as we wait at lights. When Black kids (and some are not actually “kids”) do their squeegee bit, we are suddenly both annoyed and fearful. My own experience tells me that if you can take the moment to be kind and courteous to the squeegee groups, they will respond likewise, whether you have cash or not.

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Boycott Baltimore City? No, we should boycott those who raise racist resentments and harbor the kinds of attitudes we heard from one “politician.”

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Jon McGill, Baltimore

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