`It's discrimination,' squeegee kids cry

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 10:46:00 -0700


July 23, 1998=20

`It's discrimination,' squeegee kids cry=20

By Theresa Ebden=20
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

Word of Premier Mike Harris' call to kick window washers off Toronto's
streets was met with outrage by downtown squeegee kids.=20

``If they want a bunch of starving kids lying on the street, they're going
the right way about it,'' said a lanky 15-year-old boy who works at Spadina
Ave. and Front St. W.=20

``It's discrimination,'' said Scott, an older clean-cut teen working at the
corner of Bay St. and Lake Shore Blvd. W. He would not give his last name.=
=20

``If we were one racial group, this would be racism and against the law.
We're homeless, and working for our money.''=20

Despite officials' warnings that Toronto will be the ``squeegee capital of
the world,'' squeegee people say their recent rise in numbers has nothing
to do with washing windows. Toronto, they say, was the meeting area for
Punkfest, a large music festival held last weekend near Peterborough
featuring the squeegee culture's favourite bands. Now the kids are heading
home.=20

`THEY STRUGGLE'

Taxi driver Hakim Omar doesn't believe they're growing in numbers. ``They
just keep changing intersections,'' he said. ``They hustle a lot. I like
them. They struggle.''=20

A bucket of soapy water and his squeegee is all that stands between a life
of crime and a chance to get off the streets, Scott said.=20

``Before I did this, I did bad things to get my money. I don't want to go
back to that,'' said Scott, whose dream is to own a body art parlour with
his girlfriend.=20

He said tales of $100 daily earnings are lies. He says he is hurt by Mayor
Mel Lastman's comments that they are thugs.=20

Arguments that squeegee people scare tourists aren't true, added Scott's
girlfriend.=20

``They take pictures of us and wave,'' said Emma Martinez, a 16-year-old
girl dressed in a black vinyl skirt and tall boots. ``Some of us do come
from abusive homes. Now we're being harassed. We're just trying to make an
honest buck.''=20

Back at Spadina Ave. and Front St. W., Andrew Harper shared Scott's outrage.=
=20

``Why don't police go after prostitutes?'' said Harper, a tall soft-spoken
20-year-old from Regina. ``We're only washing windows.''=20

Contents copyright =A9 1996-1998, The=A0Toronto=A0Star.
User interface, selection and arrangement copyright =A9 1996-1998,
Torstar=A0Electronic=A0Publishing=A0Ltd.=20


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Graeme Bacque
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#14909975 on ICQ
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