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Amsterdam community project pays alcoholics with beer to clean streets


Netherlands

Amsterdam community project pays alcoholics with beer to clean streets

A group of alcoholics has been hired to clean the streets of Amsterdam.

In return for a day’s work, they’re paid 10 euros, one hot meal, half a packet of cigarettes and five cans of beer.

Many of the men have lost careers and marriages to alcohol addiction and are happy to find some companionship and stability.

Fifty-year-old Karel Slinger who’s part of the project said: “In the park, the weather is nice and you can drink a lot of beer. Now you come here and you have something to do. I can’t just sit still. I want to do something.”

Programme director, Gerri Holterman, from the Rainbow Group Foundation, believes that keeping these men occupied with work gives them fewer hours to drink.

“I think we are already successful, when we get them to drink less during the day … This is a start to go towards other projects and get maybe another kind of job,” said Holterman.

According to Holterman, there is a waiting list for those alcoholics who want to join the programme.

Fatima Elatik, district mayor of eastern Amsterdam, works hard to change the view of skeptics.

“For a lot of politicians it was really difficult to accept, ‘So you are giving alcohol?’ No, I am giving people a sense of perspective, and a sense of belonging and a sense of feeling that they are okay and that we need them and that we validate them and we don’t ostracise our people, because these are people that live in our districts,” said Elatik.

There is a waiting list for people wanting to join the group.

The experimental programme has been in place for two years. Other cities are looking at starting similar projects.

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