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Baltimore considers requiring some city contracts provide jobs for 'squeegee kids' to win bids

Community activist seeks jobs for 'squeegee kids'
squeegee boys
Posted at 6:13 PM, Jan 22, 2020

BALTIMORE, Md. — Getting squeegee kids off the streets of Baltimore and into full-time jobs is the goal of one Baltimore community activist.

She took her fight to City Hall to get city officials to do something about it.

Some might see squeegee kids on the streets as nothing more than a nuisance but Baltimore City community activist and Kim Trueheart sees something else.

RELATED: Squeegeeing: The story from the streets

"These young men that we have been maligning , who are on the corner trying to work, can become employed with full-time jobs,“ Trueheart said.

She's counting on the city to provide those opportunities.

Each week, Baltimore's spending board, the Board of Estimates decides how to spend taxpayer dollars.

January 8th, it was set to approve a $40,000 contract for a Pikesville landscaper to remove invasive plants from two city reservoirs.

"It’s our tax dollars that are going to companies outside the city," Trueheart said.

At the prior Board of Estimates meeting, City Purchasing Agent Erin Sher Smyth. called it a complex job for trained professionals.

"There will be excavating required to dig out the roots, these invasive species have roots that need to be removed. It is not merely like weed whacking or lawn cutting. It requires chainsaws, and additional equipment,” Smyth said.

Trueheart organized the beautification team Bmore Clean & Green. "It’s low skilled work. Work that entry-level positions can be created that our workforce can be trained. It’s not impossible. It is possible,” Trueheart said.

It’s why Trueheart contested the contract, causing the board to put the bid on hold for two weeks.

Two weeks later, the city's purchasing agent said they're pulling the bid and giving Trueheart's request to now require the contract to include giving low skilled workers in Baltimore a shot.

"We are going to put that out to bid. We’re going to work on the workforce development program and use it as a test for smaller contracts with this program included," Smyth said.

"What we’re putting back out as a competitive bid. It will require that there be a workforce development component. We usually make those when we do put them in the contract. It’s a pass fail. If you don’t include a workforce development component, you’re not a responsive bidder," Smyth added.

"I’m thankful to hear that somebody wants to put a plan together but why is it being limited to small dollar contracts, that makes no sense to me,” Trueheart said.

While the city's workforce development program already works with public and private companies to provide jobs and training for Baltimore's youth, ensuring those opportunities are given may now be required to win the bid on a city contract.

Up until now, putting the city's young people to work was not a requirement of doing business with the city.

"The question is, people say, well why isn’t this part of contracts? We actually can get it in there, if I get assistance from the people that are experts in what does a good youth program look like, what does a good workforce development program look like, so we can include it in the documents," Smyth said.

"We’re going to stay on top of this, because until these young men have jobs, the city is falling short,” Trueheart said.

Bmore Clean and Green supervisor Christopher White knows what a difference it makes.

"I’ve been gone for 19 years on a 30 year sentence. Obama gave me a pardon. I learned how to cut grass inside of prison for 15 cents an hour. When I came out here and seen the way Baltimore was, I couldn’t believe it. I just took some of the things I learned in prison, and I’m trying to instill it in some of these kids and show them there’s a better way than selling drugs and squeegeeing,” White said.