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Alcoholics paid in beer to clean Amsterdam streets

Published November 20, 2013 9:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In America, alcoholics go to AA. In Amsterdam, they clean the streets and get paid in beer.

The city famous for bicycles, hookers and weed has a program that gives alcoholics five cans of beer to clean the streets, according to the Times Live. The street cleaners — referred to collectively in the article as "the alcoholics" — get a couple of cans in the morning, two for lunch and a final one at the end of the day. They also get 10 Euros and half a pack of cigarettes.

The program is funded by the government and donations and participants have to work three days a week.

Now, at first glance this sounds to me like a terrible, demeaning way to get the streets cleaned. After all, these guys are working for something like 3 Euros an hour, some of which is paid in the form of the very thing causing their problem.

But here's the rationale:

• "The alcoholics" were causing problems in a local park and cleaning the streets gives them something to do;

• There is a supervisor on hand who "carefully notes each person's beer consumption";

• At least some of "the alcoholics" seem to like the program and feel it helps them;

• The program apparently works, with the problems in the park having been solved.

The article ultimately dubs the program "an imaginative approach." So perhaps this is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that could fix other troubled parks?

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii