The Kingman Boys and Girls Club just off Logan Circle in Northwest Washington, has developed a partial solution to the teen-age unemployment problem plaguing that inner city neighborhood.
The solution for nearly 70 youths, 13 to 20 years old, is an odd jobs program that seeks work ranging from raking leaves and washing cars to painting and cutting wood.
In operation since last summer, the program, funded through the St. John's Episcopal Church, gives Shaw and Cardozo area youth an opportunity to earn between $3 and $4 an hour.
"Our only problem is that we can't get residents nearby the club to hire youths," said Sheilah O'connor, 20, a student at American University and odd jobs program coordinator for the club.
Suburbanites have been heavy users of the service, O'Connor said, while calls from District residents, close to the center, have been rare. "This creates a transportation problem that we could eliminate if local residents hire these young people."
Another problem, she noted, was that some potential employers have refused to hire the young people at the last minute, when they discovered that the Kingman club was located in a predominantly black area. However, once the young people arrive and do the job, she said, there are few complaints from their employers.
Darryl Webster, 15, who has participated in the program since last summer, said he has also noticed that some residents are particularly careful about supervising his work simply because he comes from the inner city.
"I often see them looking out of the corner of their eye to make sure I am doing the job. And if I have to go into their home, they are sure to follow me so I won't steal anything."
Webster, a Coolidge High Schol sophomore basketball player, said he is not upset by his employers' concerns. "I just want to earn money and be able to buy what I want."
He said all the kids know that stealing anything would give the Kingman Boys and Girls Club a bad name.
The club, on Kingman Place, sandwiched between 14th Street NW and Logan Circle, is a three-story townhouse facility that provides a variety of activities for inner-city youth including classes in crafts, printing, photography and furniture repair and which offers tutorial aid.
Webster said the neatly painted center has helped him improve his grades so he can continue playing basketball at Coolidge.
Curtis Gore, 20, another youth employed by the odd jobs program, has used it to earn money for college. "I have done painting and gardening," said Gore, a Shaw resident who plans to attend Norfolk State College this fall.
Meanwhile, O'Connor said she hopes the warm weather will bring more jobs for the young people. "A lot of our work is done outside. It is difficult for these kids to get jobs when it is cold."