Amsterdam pays alcoholics in beer to clean streets

Amsterdam pays alcoholics in beer to clean streets

AMSTERDAM - Agence France-Presse
Amsterdam pays alcoholics in beer to clean streets

Chronic alcoholics clean a street on September 9, 2013 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. AFP PHOTO

At nine o’clock in the morning in a garden shed behind a house in Amsterdam, a handful of alcoholics are getting ready to clean the surrounding streets, beer and cigarette in hand.

For a day’s work, the men receive 10 euros, a half-packet of rolling tobacco and, most importantly, five cans of beer: two to start the day, two at lunch and one for after work. “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 alcoholics are split into two groups of around 10 people, with each group working three days a week. The imaginative approach to the problem of anti-social behaviour demonstrates typical Dutch pragmatism which could be found shocking in other countries, but not here.

Beer and coffee

The day begins at around 9 am, with the workers drinking two beers and some coffee, if desired, before going to clean the streets.

Sat at a large table, Gerrie carefully notes each person’s beer consumption, but there is an atmosphere of trust: if she gets called away, the alcoholics themselves record how much they have drunk.

For lunch, the team returns to the shed where they get two beers and a warm meal, before heading off again for the afternoon shift. The working day ends with a final beer at around 3:30 pm. Project participants also say they are happy to be there, all taking part voluntarily.