Alcoholics in the Dutch city of Amsterdam are being paid in beer to clean the streets. It’s an idea so crazy that it just might work.
The plan came about after it was discovered that a group of alcoholics were causing trouble in one of Amsterdam’s parks. In order to get them to work a program was created to motivate them to clean the dirty streets of Amsterdam. Pay them in beer. They are also compensated with 10 euros per day (approximately $13 USD) and half a pack of tobacco. But, most importantly, they are paid in beer. Two at the start of the day, two on their lunch break, and one after work has been completed for the day. All participants are required to work three days a week.
All of this is courtesy of the Rainbow Foundation project, a program that is funded by donations and paid for the Dutch government. Gerrie Holterman, head of the Foundation, claims that the group’s main goal is to keep the men busy and to deter them from fighting and otherwise making a nuisance of themselves. She says that everyone benefits from the program since the streets are clean and the troublesome alcoholics are kept busy. Everyone is happy. One man says that they wouldn’t bother helping out if beer wasn’t provided. He says that they are alcoholics and require beer in order to function.
If this seems like a really bad idea, or if you feel that there are better ways to keep the streets of Amsterdam clean, you aren’t alone. The idea of paying alcoholics in alcohol is rather demeaning and counterproductive. The actual money they are being paid is below most standard minimum wage. However, there are rational reasons for the project. The alcoholics were the ones causing the problem to begin with. They were bored with nothing to do other than start fights in the parks and in the streets. By giving them a job cleaning the streets you remove part of the problem. There is always a supervisor watching over the group. Beer consumption is carefully noted at the start of the day, mid-day, and at the end of the day.
There are some members of the group, fondly referred to as ‘the alcoholics,’ who feel that the program has helped them immensely. They have pocket money. They have half a pack of smokes every day they work. And then there is the beer.
In a city that is known for its decadence and excess, paying alcoholics to clean up the streets rather mild. The Dutch are a very liberal society. Their policies on marijuana usage and prostitution are very relaxed. They are a nation of happy citizens. The program may seem a bit unorthodox but no one in Amsterdam seems to mind.
There are crazier things happening in Amsterdam than having Dutch alcoholics clean the streets for free beer. It’s certainly a thinking outside the box approach to the problem, but it seems to be paying off.
By Mary Kay Love