Squeegee man

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Squeegee man in Dublin, Ireland.

A squeegee man or squeegee woman, squeegee kid (Canada), squeegee boy (Baltimore), squeegee punk (Montreal), squeegee merchant (London), squeegee guy or squeegee bandit[1] is a person who, using a washcloth and squeegee, wipes windshields of cars stopped in traffic, in exchange for money.

By country[edit]


In Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg, they are known as squeegee kids and they are mostly tolerated, since they are considered to be working for money, rather than begging. In Montreal, they are often called squeegee punks,[2] in reference to their appearance, or simply squeegees.[3] In 1999, the Ontario government passed the Safe Streets Act, outlawing squeegee kids and aggressive public begging. The Government of British Columbia has adopted a word for word version of the Ontario Safe Street Act. Squeegee kids have become scarce in Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, BC, as police frequently stop them and check their identities for outstanding arrest warrants.

In 2011, then Deputy Mayor of Toronto Doug Holyday told the Toronto Sun that there was the will in council to step up action against panhandlers, including squeegee kids;[4] the proposition was mocked by some media, given the previous efforts, and the suggestion that the homeless would have to pay fines.[5]

United Kingdom[edit]

Londoners, and perhaps others, extend the appellation to include those who roam in the midst of stopped traffic to not only wash windscreens, but also hawk items such as roses and newspapers. For this reason, they are sometimes called squeegee merchants.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

In New York City in the 1980s, the usual procedure would involve groups of squeegee men surrounding cars stopped in traffic. Although some merely provided a service, in other cases the windshield-washing would be carried out without asking, often perfunctorily, and with subsequent demands for money, sometimes with added threats of smashing the car's windshield. Upon his election, mayor Rudy Giuliani famously sought to remove squeegee men from the streets[6] as part of his quality-of-life campaign, claiming that their near-ubiquitous presence created an environment of disorder that encouraged more serious crime to flourish. Squeegee men disappeared from city streets during Giuliani's mayoralty and did not reappear in significant numbers.

Squeegee men were among the first targeted by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Commissioner William Bratton. In his book Leadership, Giuliani explained that his method of removing the squeegee men from the street involved arresting them. Patrolmen who first made the arrests saw that the squeegee men were released immediately, because according to the New York penal code at the time, cleaning someone's windshield was not illegal. Giuliani told the officers that if they saw any more squeegee men they should simply arrest them for jaywalking.[7]

Squeegee men (or "squeegee boys" for younger examples) remain prevalent in Baltimore, Maryland.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "squeegee". The Chambers Dictionary. Allied Publisher. 1998. p. 1605. ISBN 978-81-86062-25-8. Retrieved October 13, 2011. squeegee bandit[:] a person who approaches vehicles when they are stopped in traffic and cleans their windscreens, usu.
  2. ^ Jacquie Charlton. "A comedy of infractions". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  3. ^ "Squeegee". YouTube (in French). Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2007. Video of squeegee punks in the streets of Montreal.
  4. ^ Levy, Sue-Ann (June 1, 2011). "Buddy can you spare a crime". Toronto Sun. Toronto ON. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ McGrath, John Michael (June 3, 2011). "Doug Holyday wants to fight panhandling—also, party—like it's 1999". Toronto Life. Toronto ON. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Kevin Drum, America's Real Criminal Element: Lead January/February 2013 Issue, "[1]", visited 8 Jan 2013
  7. ^ Wayne Barrett. "Giuliani's Legacy: Taking Credit For Things He Didn't Do". Gotham Gazette.
  8. ^ "Baltimore squeegee kids find work, risks, cash at stoplights". ABC News.

External links[edit]