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Readers Respond

Squeegee work: An income problem, not a crime problem | READER COMMENTARY

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman’s commentary on squeegee kids is right on target (”Michelle Deal-Zimmerman: Many in Baltimore want squeegee kids out of sight, out of mind,” Aug. 2). Not watching TV news has spared me the worst of the responses, but even so I have been somewhere between disheartened and exasperated by some of what I have seen or heard. Even U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, in a telephone town hall, fielded a question about crime in Baltimore (which may or may not have included a reference to squeegee kids) and talked exclusively in terms of enforcement measures.

When are we going to look at reality? People who cannot make a living (like, y’know, survive) in the official “legitimate” economy are going to seek other means. They have to — it is not human nature to curl up and die merely because nobody has enough use for you to pay you decently. We should respect the spirit and enterprise of those young people, that they seek to earn money through work and not get it by selling drugs or robbing people.

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If we want to reduce crime, and the activities of squeegee workers, we have to reduce the need for alternate income. That means providing decently paid work and, if necessary, help getting identification papers, further education and mentoring as wanted to help people fulfill their potential. These people who are already working hard in hazardous conditions could do so much for the city and the city needs so much done. The connection ought to be obvious.

Yes, it is difficult to come up with money and effective programs, but it would help to start by seeing these young people as a resource rather than a problem.

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— Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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