Daniel Hynes

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Amsterdam pays people with beer to clean up

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http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amsterdam-has-a-deal-for-alcoholics--work-paid-in-beer-164244203.html

“You have to look sharp,” said Mr. Schiphorst, 60, a former construction worker.

His workday begins unfailingly at 9 a.m. — with two cans of beer, a down payment on a salary paid mostly in alcohol. He gets two more cans at lunch and then another can or, if all goes smoothly, two to round off a productive day.

“I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again,” said Mr. Schiphorst, the grateful beneficiary of an unusual government-funded program to lure alcoholics off the streets by paying them in beer to pick up trash.

In addition to beer — the brand varies depending on which brewery offers the best price — each member of the cleaning team gets half a packet of rolling tobacco, free lunch and 10 euros a day, or about $13.55.

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The idea of providing alcoholics with beer in return for work, he said, was first tried in Canada. It took off in the Netherlands in part because the country has traditionally shunned “zero tolerance” in response to addiction. Amsterdam now has three districts running beer-for-work street cleaning programs, and a fourth discussing whether to follow suit. Other Dutch cities are looking into the idea, too."

"“If you just say, ‘Stop drinking and we will help you,’ it doesn’t work,” said Mr. Wijnands, whose foundation gets 80 percent of its financing from the state and runs four drug consumption rooms with free needles for hardened addicts. “But if you say, ‘I will give you work for a few cans of beer during the day,’ they like it.”

To shield the government from criticism that it is subsidizing drinking, the Rainbow Foundation insists that it pays for the beer given to Mr. Schiphorst and his fellow alcoholics out of its own funds. “For the government, it is hard to say, ‘We buy beer for a particular group of people,’ because other people will say, ‘I would like some beer, too,’ ” Mr. Wijnands said.

“It would be beautiful if they all stopped drinking, but that is not our main goal,” he added. “You have to give people an alternative, to show them a path other than just sitting in the park and drinking themselves to death.”"

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