Amsterdam Beer: Netherlands Government Project Pays Alcoholics In Free Beer To Clean Streets

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A government-funded project in the Netherlands is paying a group of alcoholics in beer to clean up the streets of Amsterdam.

According to Agence France-Presse, the Rainbow Foundation pays its workers €10 ($13), a half-packet of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer -- two in the morning, two during lunch and one after work -- for each day of work.

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

As AFP reports, the alcoholic workers are split into two groups of 10 people. Each group works three days a week. The workday starts at 9 a.m. and includes a hot lunch.

“I think I can speak for the group and say that if they didn’t give us beers then we wouldn’t come,” said Frank, a 45-year-old alcoholic who participates in the government-funded program. “We need alcohol to function; that’s the disadvantage of chronic alcoholism.”

“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.

“When I get home, I’ve already had a busy day and I don’t necessarily want to drink,” Vincent, 48, said. “We also feel satisfied, a job well done, contributing to society despite the fact that we drink.” 

“What’s also good is that the beer they give us is light, 5 percent, not 11 percent or 12 percent like I used to drink,” Vincent said.

Frank, however, disagrees. “Of course we drink in a more structured way, but I don’t think that we drink less,” he told AFP. “When we leave here, we go to the supermarket and transform the 10 euros we earned into beers.”

According to Agence France-Presse, neighborhood residents are supportive of the Rainbow Foundation Project. “They’re doing something useful instead of hanging out in the park,” a woman who declined to be identified said.

“You have to see things like this: Everyone benefits,” said Holterman. “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 added.

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