Amsterdam Is Paying Alcoholics in Beer

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Some countries leave their alcoholics to sleep in the streets. The Netherlands gives theirs beer as payment for cleaning them.

Yes, the land of the pot coffee shops is also home to a government-funded program called the Rainbow Foundation Project pays about 20 "chronic alcoholics" 10 euros, some rolling tobacco and, most importantly, five cans of beer for a day's work cleaning Amsterdam's streets, according to the AFP.

Gerrie Holterman, who's in charge of the program, thinks it's a great way to keep the otherwise bothersome alcoholics busy doing something useful. "This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam's Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women," she said. "The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park."

They work three days a week, earning beer throughout the day (two at the beginning of the shift, two at lunch, and one to take home), and the participants interviewed for the article seemed pretty happy about the whole thing. One said he spent his 10 euros on more alcohol once the work day was finished. But another said he didn't want to drink after spending the day hard at work, which could be a problem if his relative teetotalism causes him to be less dependent on alcohol and thus no longer qualified to participate in the program.

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The program may seem counter intuitive to some, but Holterman doesn't see the problem with supplying alcoholics with the source of their addiction: "Heroin addicts can go to shooting galleries, so why shouldn't we also give people beer?"

And the AFP article called it an "imaginative approach to the problem of anti-social behaviour" that "demonstrates typical Dutch pragmatism which could be found shocking in other countries." So if you think giving alcoholics alcohol is a bad thing, then maybe you should stop and think about your hatred of pragmatism.

According to the World Health Organization's 2011 report, harmful use of alcohol kills 2.5 million people every year.



This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.