It’s an interesting idea that’s being partially funded by the Dutch government. The BBC reports that alcoholics are, “being paid in beer to clean the streets of Amsterdam.” For five hours of work, those who have signed on to help clean up the streets get five cans of beer and receive €10 ($13.50).
The program is run by De Regenboog Groep (The Rainbow Group), an organization that aims to help those with, “…social problems, the homeless, the poor, drug users and those with psychiatric problems. The organization provides shelter, relief and aid to people in the margins of society.” They see their litter program as, as the BBC put it, a more pragmatic approach.
Janet van de Noord, who runs the program, told the BBC, “It’s quite difficult to get these people off the alcohol completely. We have tried everything else. Now this is the only thing that works. We might not make them better, but we are giving them a better quality of life and it’s better for the neighborhood, they’re giving something back to society.”
There has been a noticeable difference in Oosterpark, a large park in Amsterdam in which many alcoholics have resided. The BBC writes that since The Rainbow Group started their efforts, there have been fewer reports of violent crimes and the park is largely litter free.
Rene, a 52-year-old man, is one of 20 alcoholics who are participating. He freely admits that the draw is the free beer and doesn’t seem to be close to sobering up, yet he is happy that he is contributing to society. He told the British news station, “They used to treat us like garbage – and now we are picking up their garbage, we are not the garbage anymore.”