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article imageAmsterdam alcoholics paid with beer to clean up streets

By Anne Sewell     Nov 20, 2013 in World
Amsterdam - In what might seem at first glance to be a little counteractive, the Rainbow Foundation in Amsterdam is now paying local chronic alcoholics with beer for keeping the streets of the city clean.
Rainbow Foundation, who are running the project, say this should help to prevent anti-social behavior, by keeping the addicts busy and "otherwise engaged."
For cleaning Amsterdam's streets, the alcoholics will receive five cans of beer, a half-pack of rolling tobacco and even around 10 euros ($13) in cash per day. They are also offered a good hot lunch for their trouble.
Reportedly they start the day at 9 am with two cans of beer, they then get stuck into cleaning the streets, and finally end their day at 3 pm, yes, you guessed it, with a can of beer. At some stage in between, they are offered a hot lunch, together with the remaining two cans of beer.
Oosterpark in Amsterdam  Netherlands
Oosterpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands
S Sepp
The project, which is being run by the Rainbow Foundation, was started due to a group of alcoholics causing a nuisance in the city's Oosterpark. Gerrie Holterman, who runs the project told AFP:
"This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam's Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women."
Holterman added that the aim is to keep the troublemakers busy, so they will no longer cause any problems in the park.
At present there are around 20 alcoholics cleaning Amsterdam's streets, and they work in two teams of around 10, three days a week.
Holterman says she believes that everyone will benefit from this project, which is being financed partly by the government and also from donations received by Rainbow Foundation.
She says the alcoholics are busy and happy, and the streets are clean. However, when questioned about the logic of giving beer to alcoholics, she said they would not participate without it.
One of the participants, 45-year-old Frank said:
"We need alcohol to function, that's the disadvantage of chronic alcoholism."
Holterman notes down each volunteer's beer consumption to keep track, and she does state that:
"They're no longer in the park, they drink less, they eat better and they have something to keep them busy during the day."
According to the alcoholics themselves, they say they are taking part voluntarily and that they are happy to be there, it gives their lives "some structure."
According to Frank:
"Lots of us haven't had any structure in our lives for years, we just don't know what it is, and so this is good for us."
However, on the subject of drinking less, it seems not everyone agrees with Holterman's statement. Frank admits that while after a busy day of work they “don't necessarily want to drink,” he says he is actually still drinking the same amount, but in a more structured way.
He admitted that on days when they are not working they head to the supermarket saying:
"When the supermarket opens at 8:00 am, we're the first there so we can get some drinks."
However, another addict, 48-year-old Vincent, said:
"When I get home, I've already had a busy day and I don't necessarily want to drink."
"We also feel satisfied, a job well done, contributing to society despite the fact that we drink."
It should be noted that the beer provided by the Rainbow Foundation is a light beer, only 5 percent alcohol and not the normal 11 or 12 percent.
The new street cleaning project is just another way that the Rainbow Foundation is involved with addicts. The foundation was apparently set up 35 years ago to help heroin addicts where they ran what they called "drug rooms" in Amsterdam, where addicts could use their drugs in a safer environment.
The group also offers "underground tours", where former drug addicts take tourists on a guided tour of "meaningful locations" where they used to hang out when doing their drugs.
More about Netherlands, Amsterdam, Alcoholics, street cleaning, rainbow foundation
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