With squeegee ban approaching, group hosts event to connect young people with jobs

Published on: January 06, 2023 8:26 PM EST|Updated on: January 23, 2023 6:33 PM EST

Michael Williams, 17, gets a free haircut from Lawrence Mayo, a barber, Friday afternoon.
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Days before a ban on squeegeeing goes into effect in certain busy areas, a group of government and community leaders held an event Friday to help squeegee workers and young people across the city find job opportunities and other resources.

Inside the UA House at Fayette, which is operated by Living Classrooms, some got haircuts to ready for job interviews. Others stopped at booths set up by organizations including K.E.Y.S. Empowers, Concentric Educational Solutions, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, among others, to learn about open positions, ways to further their educations, or to get access to other needed services.

At another booth, a representative from JOY Baltimore, a nonprofit that aims to end youth homelessness in Baltimore, handed out free hygiene products and clothing.

The event, called the Playbook Kick-Off, included a panel where professionals discussed with young people their career trajectories and the possibilities.

The Playbook Kick-Off was hosted by the Squeegee Collaborative, a group of business, government, community leaders and young people convened by Mayor Brandon Scott in July, following a fatal shooting in which a teenage squeegee worker has been charged.

It follows the group’s release of a series of recommendations for the city in November, such as connecting squeegee workers to jobs and training, as well as other services.

“That’s what this reflects,” John Brothers, co-chair of the collaborative and president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation, said of Friday’s event. “Just one of a number of ways that we’re trying to lay out a net and catch these amazing young people and trying to serve them in a great way.”

It’s important, Brothers said, not just to provide job opportunities, but also the resources young people may need to maintain those jobs and do them well.

“They need services applied to them before you can just kind of say, ‘Go to work,’” Brothers said.

As part of the “accountability” aspect of the plan, the city will enforce a ban on squeegeeing in several highly-trafficked roadways starting Jan. 10.

Squeegee workers on those roadways will receive two warnings by Baltimore Police officers and be issued citations after a third incident. Drivers who engage with squeegee workers may also receive citations.

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Ty Walker, 23, said the upcoming ban prompted him to come to the Friday event.

“It’s over on the 10th, so I felt like I needed to get another job,” Walker said, as he waited to get a haircut in preparation for job interviews Friday afternoon.

Walker squeegees every day on President Street, he said. It’s the most immediate way to make money without breaking the law and “risking my freedom,” he said. He can usually make about $200 to $300 a day.

He doesn’t know what kind of job he’s looking for, he said, but knew he’d eventually have to stop squeegeeing and is ready for a new line of work.

A 14-year-old girl, said she’s been squeegeeing for around two months. She said she’d also heard the city would soon be putting some sort of ban on squeegeeing, which means, “We ain’t going to be making any money,” she said.

She’s trying to find another job, but said it’s been tough because of her age.

Other young people at the event had never squeegeed before, but were looking for employment or training opportunities.

Amare Chase, an 11th grader at Lake Clifton High School, said he’s focused on school right now, but eventually hopes to become an NBA player.

“That’s my dream,” he said. “I play point guard.”

But his backup plan, he said, is to go into construction, and he got a chance to sign up for a training in the field Friday afternoon.