Instead of loitering in the streets, Dutch alcoholics clean them up – and get paid in beer.
Only in Amsterdam, you might say.
As part of a government-funded scheme, about 20 chronic alcoholics receive five cans of beer, half a pouch of rolling tobacco and the equivalent of $13 each for six hours of work – plus a hot lunch, the Independent reports.
The make-work project is the Rainbow Foundation’s answer to fights, excessive noise, offensive comments to women and general nuisance caused by alcoholics in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark.
“The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park,” the charity’s chief executive, Gerrie Holterman, is quoted as saying.
The organization keeps tabs on the clean-up crews’ beer consumption during working hours.
But at 3:30 p.m., when their day is done, “we go to the supermarket and transform the [cash] we earned into beers,” said a 45-year-old alcoholic named Frank.
Nevertheless, Vince, another alcoholic in his 40s, said his intake had gone down since he joined the program. “When I get home, I’ve already had a busy day and I don’t necessarily want to drink,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
The Rainbow Foundation was originally set up 35 years ago to give heroin addicts a safe place to shoot up.
Treating alcoholism isn’t the goal of the new initiative, but as Holterman put it, “You have to see things like this: Everyone benefits. They’re no longer in the park, they drink less, they eat better and they have something to keep them busy during the day.”
The program is either a win-win example of harm reduction or the epitome of government-funded enabling, depending on your point of view.
Commenting at the Daily Mail, userpete86 from Irvine, Calif., said: “I see no problem with having alcoholic hobos get a good meal and a fine beer for pick[ing] up trash.”
But supplying alcoholics with beer is just another example of “Dutch nonsense,” according to Daily Mail reader BadRas of Manchester, Britain. “Why not try treating your citizens’ illnesses rather than exploiting their weakness and sending them to early graves?” he wrote.