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Amsterdam alcoholics paid in beer to clean streets

Amsterdam has come up with a controversial way to get alcoholics off the streets: Pay them beer to clean said streets.

AFP reports that the Rainbow Foundation Project, which is partially funded by the Dutch government, pays alcoholics 10 euros along with a half-packet of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer, for a full day's work.

Two beers are given out when the work day begins at 9 a.m., two are given with lunch and then participants are given a beer to take home after work. The workers' alcohol intake is monitored and recorded by a Rainbow Foundation employee, but they do sometimes rely on the workers to self-report how much they drank. The participants say that the beer they get as payment is lighter, containing only 5 percent alcohol, compared to the 11 or 12 percent brews they typically consume.

There are currently two groups of about 10 people who are employed by the project, and they work three days per week.

"This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam's Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women," Gerrie Holterman, who runs the Rainbow Foundation Project, told AFP. "The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park."

Not everyone is on-board with the plan.

Janina Kean, president and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Conn., told by email that it is "absolutely not" a good form of treatment to wean alcoholics off alcohol by providing them more alcohol, even in a monitored situation.

"It's exploiting them and continuing their addiction. It's like mothers feeding babies alcohol to keep them quiet and it's just as egregious," Kean said.

Some workers told AFP that because they are so tired from working, they no longer want to drink at the end of the day. However, one man, identified as Frank, admitted that he uses his paycheck to buy more beer.

"Of course we drink in a more structured way, but I don't think that we drink less," he said. "When we leave here, we go to the supermarket and transform the 10 euros we earned into beers.... When the supermarket opens at 8:00 am, we're the first there so we can get some drinks."

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