Amsterdam is paying local alcoholics with beer to clean up trash on the streets.
According to the Huffington Post, the alcoholics receive 10 euros, a half-packet of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer throughout the day to maintain the ruckus caused by their peers.
“This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women,” said Gerrie Holterman, who heads the Rainbow Foundation project, financed by the Dutch state and donations.
“The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park,” she told AFP.
The workers are split into two groups of 10, each of which works three days a week.
The work day begins around 9:00 am, with each alcoholic downing two beers before going to clean up.
“I think I can speak for the group and say that if they didn’t give us beers then we wouldn’t come,” Frank, wearing a fluorescent street cleaner’s bib and carrying a bin bag and litter-grabber, told AFP.
“We need alcohol to function, that’s the disadvantage of chronic alcoholism,” said the 45-year-old.
The team gets three free meals as well. The day ends at 3:30 pm with one final celebratory beer.
“You have to see things like this: everyone benefits,” said Gerrie.
“They’re no longer in the park, they drink less, they eat better and they have something to keep them busy during the day.
“Heroin addicts can go to shooting galleries, so why shouldn’t we also give people beer?” she said.
The participants, all of whom are voluntary, say they are very happy to be doing their part along with setting out on the path to live normal lives.
“It gives our lives some structure,” said one unnamed worker.
“Lots of us haven’t had any structure in our lives for years, we just don’t know what it is, and so this is good for us,” Frank added.
Amsterdam is very grateful as well, repeatedly greeting the cleaners and thanking them for their service.
“They’re doing something useful instead of hanging out in the park,” said one woman.
While some believe the program will only worsen their addictions, most of the workers say they mostly remain the same.
“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….”
And even when they aren’t working, the group still gathers in the morning to feed their demons.
“When the supermarket opens at 8:00 am, we’re the first there so we can get some drinks,” he said.