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City calls squeegee boys 'disconnected youth,' creates jobs for them at the Hilton

squeegee boys
Posted at 6:22 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 18:22:45-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — People know them as squeegee boys but the City of Baltimore is changing their name and launching new employment opportunities to get them off the corners.

With the Board of Estimates authorization Wednesday, the city enters into an agreement with a Canopy Hilton Hotel in Harbor East to help employ ‘Disconnected Youth That Squeegee.’

“I wanna know why they call us disconnected. What are we disconnected from? I’m don’t know,” said one teen who squeegees and goes by the name Five.

Since the 1980s, Baltimore has grappled with persistent youth panhandling, specifically those that participate in free-lance windshield washing at high traffic intersections.

“It’s good money over here. A lot of people don’t know that. A lot of people don’t think we aren’t doing too much but we are out here. We make a couple dollars,” said Five.

City officials said for the last few years, they’ve been working to develop a support model for disrupting environments that encourage squeegee activity.

The latest effort by the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement is launching an Employer Coalition. The Canopy Hilton Hotel is the first of what they hope will be many partners to employ the teens.

Two cohorts of 10 youth will be hired for a 13-week period and paid $15 an hour. They will get three weeks of workforce training from MOAAME and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, as well as a mentor.

Five said he’d take the opportunity if it came but he’s not optimistic.

“I’ll believe it when I see it because a lot of people say they gonna do this, they are gonna do that. There were a couple programs that really came out and helped out and gave us jobs for the summertime,” said Five. “Small businesses, they come through and help us more than the city does.”

Others, like Ella Cosby, who interacts with the teens all the time and called them respectful, still question the specificity of the program.

“I think it shouldn’t be only for the squeegee boys. It should be for other young boys that’s out here and need a job, and I think the city needs to help everybody, not just them,” said Cosby.

They have already hired 8 of the first 10 youth.

Disconnected youth, who are interested, are referred to MOAAME’s Connect 2 Success Program. Youth must be willing to complete the required engagement and approval programmatic processes.