​Why Amsterdam Pays Alcoholics In Program For Beer​​

By: | Follow Twitter:
January 17, 2021
Follow: Amsterdam, Amsterdam Alcoholics Work For Beer, Beer, Work

Amsterdam alcoholics work for beer - It is a rather odd beer schedule for alcoholics living in Amsterdam to work in order to pay for their own addiction. On Jan. 17, there are many jokes that could be said about this new program, one being that it’s only noon.

In a pilot project that has drawn attention in the Netherlands and around the world, the city has teamed up with a charity organization in hopes of improving the neighborhood and possibly improving life for people who live with an addiction to drinking. You see, this program is not telling them to stop drinking, but instead it offers to fund their habit outright.

Amsterdam alcoholics are given beer in exchange for light work collecting litter, eating a decent meal, and sticking to their schedule.

“For a lot of politicians it was really difficult to accept, ‘So you are giving alcohol?’” Amsterdam East district mayor Fatima Elatik said. “No, I am giving people a sense of perspective, even a sense of belonging. A sense of feeling that they are OK and that we need them and that we validate them and we don’t ostracize our people, because these are people that live in our district.”

In practice, the men — two groups of 10 — must show up at 9 a.m., three days a week. They start off with two beers, work a morning shift, eat lunch, get two more beers, and then do an afternoon shift before closing out with their last beer. Sometimes there’s a bonus beer. Total daily pay package: $25, in a mix of beer, tobacco, a meal, and ten euros cash.

Participants say a lot of that cash also goes to beer.

To understand how this all came to be, it helps to know the background. For years, a group of around 50 rowdy, aging alcoholics had plagued a park in east Amsterdam, annoying other park-goers with noise, litter and occasional harassment.

The city had tried a number of hard-handed solutions, including adding police patrols, and temporarily banning alcohol in the park outright — including for family barbecues and picnics. Elatik says the city was spending $1.3 million a year on various prevention, treatment and policing programs to deal with the problem, and nobody was satisfied.

Meanwhile, the small nonprofit Rainbow Group Foundation and its predecessors had been experimenting with ways to get help for Amsterdam alcoholics by working for beer in the area.

Floor van Bakkum of the Jellinek clinic, one of the city’s best-known addiction treatment clinics, said her organization has a very different approach to treating alcoholism. She has a few reservations about the Rainbow program, but approves of it in general.

It is odd, and seems to be catching on, but do you think Amsterdam alcoholics should work for beer?