Amsterdam alcoholics paid in beer to clean streets

Amsterdam alcoholics paid in beer to clean streets

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY NICOLAS DELAUNAY A group of chronic alcoholics gather on September 9, 2013 in a local house in Amsterdam. They get 10 euros, half a pack of rolling tabacco, papers and five beer cans a day in exchange for cleaning local streets. The initiative of street cleaning in exchange for beer is sponsored by the De Regenboog (Rainbow) Foundation, mostly supported by donations and state subsidies to keep a dozen alcoholics, who were causing nuisances in Oosterpark park in the east of the city, busy and out of trouble. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS DELAUNAY (Photo credit should read NICOLAS DELAUNAY/AFP/Getty Images)

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by MICHELLE CASTILLO

CBS NEWS

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 20 at 8:19 PM

 (CBS News) Amsterdam has come up with a controversial way to get alcoholics off the streets: Pay them beer to clean said streets.

AFP reports that the Rainbow Foundation Project, which is partially funded by the Dutch government, pays alcoholics 10 euros along with a half-packet of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer, for a full day’s work.

Two beers are given out when the work day begins at 9 a.m., two are given with lunch and then participants are given a beer to take home after work. The workers’ alcohol intake is monitored and recorded by a Rainbow Foundation employee, but they do sometimes rely on the workers to self-report how much they drank. The participants say that the beer they get as payment is lighter, containing only 5 percent alcohol, compared to the 11 or 12 percent brews they typically consume.

There are currently two groups of about 10 people who are employed by the project, and they work three days per week.

“This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women,” Gerrie Holterman, who runs the Rainbow Foundation Project, told AFP. “The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park.”

Not everyone is on-board with the plan.

Janina Kean, president and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Conn., told CBSNews.com by email that it is “absolutely not” a good form of treatment to wean alcoholics off alcohol by providing them more alcohol, even in a monitored situation.

“It’s exploiting them and continuing their addiction. It’s like mothers feeding babies alcohol to keep them quiet and it’s just as egregious,” Kean said.

Some workers told AFP that because they are so tired from working, they no longer want to drink at the end of the day. However, one man, identified as Frank, admitted that he uses his paycheck to buy more beer.

“Of course we drink in a more structured way, but I don’t think that we drink less,” he said. “When we leave here, we go to the supermarket and transform the 10 euros we earned into beers.... When the supermarket opens at 8:00 am, we’re the first there so we can get some drinks.”

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