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  August 29, 2017

Squeegee Corps: From the Corner to Corporate

Baltimore City introduces a new program to employ youth known as the "Squeegee Boys/Girls"
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Eze Jackson: As Baltimore continues to address its reputation of being one of America's most violent cities, city officials have begun to address youth employment as one of the remedies. The Squeegee Corps started on Friday, in an initiative that takes squeegee boys and girls off of the corners where they would normally be asking for change, and gives them a job.

Squeegee boys and girls typically stand on corners offering to wash windows in exchange for whatever change the driver has lying around. But the pop up car washes, like the one today in front of City Hall you see behind me, offers $5 for windshields, $10 for whole cars, and $15 for SUVs.

We spoke to mayor Catherine Pugh, who started the program, as well as some of the young people who will be working with them today.

Catherine Pugh: So we had a conversation here at City Hall, about creating a pop up car wash for them. And in fact, you see their T-shirts, Squeegee Corps. They designed their T-shirts. And so our first one we were trying, we popped up, I think they made in donations $475 in about three hours. And I've now had a conversation with the church community through Dante [Hickman]. We've got about fourteen churches that are gonna cooperate with this effort. We've got BQ credit union that's gonna allow them to pop up at their locations.

We've got business people, the police department is going to have its own pop up car wash. So this is a way to not only strengthen our young people but to find out what their needs are. Cause I just believe you gotta meet people where they are. My goal is to take a hundred off the streets every single year, make sure they're in school. Or if they're out of school make sure they're finding a job, going to community college in Baltimore, or going to college, or employed. And so this is a way to be able to communicate with them. You know, doing this entire process. Helping them to understand financial literacy.

And they're so willing to do this. So it's been really really exciting. But they're also automatically enrolled in our youth works program. They'll also be automatically enrolled in our program for shoveling snow. During the winter. Cause we're going to keep them busy, cause if we keep them busy we can keep communicating with them, we can keep them doing positive things. We can keep them focused on being the very best that they can be.

Eze Jackson: Squeegee boys and girls who are still on the corners, are they going to be outlawed or anything?

Catherine Pugh: Oh no, no. We're trying to get them in, because what we believe is that we've got more services to offer them than being on the corner. We believe that working with them, that we can help change the trajectory of their lives. We believe that by working with them we can make sure that they finish school. They get a career. You know, some of the young people you see out here could be the next big entrepreneur. The next lawyer. The next doctor. Whatever it is they want to be. The next police officer, teacher, mayor, whatever. And that's what we're trying to inspire.

Courtney Davis: This actually like a business, not you know people don't think that you're just out there trying, just, you know, take their money over people who say when they was talking to us once before pan handling. So, it's an honest way to make money but it's like now that we have more people involved, and that's what we was trying to do, reach out to people it's better cause we just try and get the message out that we just want to have a positive and honest hustle, you know what I'm saying? I'm older than the, I'm 21. So it's like, I'm mainly here because I just support it. I'd rather see them out here doing something positive than out her just being on the streets, you know doing dumb stuff just to make money.

Eze Jackson: What corner were you on?

Desmond Rogers: Hilton and Bloomingdale.

Eze Jackson: Hilton and Bloomingdale. All right, what are you planning to do with the money you make today?

Desmond Rogers: Try and make it to a bike store. Try and save all my money. Get a back store, sell bikes. Like I fix bikes.

Eze Jackson: Okay, okay. What went through your mind when Mayor Pugh first offered this opportunity to you?

Desmond Rogers: I was like, we young black kids in Baltimore trying to make honest money, not causing no problems. I would, she trying to help us, or we might as well leap in there and do the work. So I love it.

Glenn Middleton: I think it's great Mayor Pugh is such a great innovator, it's great that she's doing this. Because it creates entrepreneurship, but also creates these young people with thinking about jobs. And keeping them off the streets and got them working. They just had it at our union office last week. It turned out really good, we want to bring them back. We want to help these young people, they're our future. And it's about creating jobs for them. And this union will always help them out, ‘cause Baltimore city needs more jobs for our young people. Thank you.

Eze Jackson: Now the mayor says they've included churches, community organizations, and business throughout the city so that they can continue doing these pop up car washes. And even during the wintertime they've included snow removal so the young people can get involved. Some days these pop up car washes have brought as much as $200-300 per youth. The mayor says she wants to keep them gainfully employed throughout the year and educated, so that they don't have to be on unsafe corners. For the Real News Network, this is Eze Jackson in Baltimore.


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