SALARIES / JUN. 05, 2014
version 6, draft 6

Government Funding Beer-Salary for Alcoholics – Now in Germany

I’m a little late on the bandwagon with this one but I had to write about it. The idea of paying alcoholics with beer to clean up the streets began in Amsterdam about a year and a half ago. There were many critics (myself being one of them) of how this entire system would work to anyone’s advantage. So the system’s been in place and we haven’t heard any major news about it, until now. Last month a city in Germany decided to initiate their own project of paying alcoholics with alcohol to clean the city streets.

For those of you that have never heard of this bizarre charity project, I will brief you now. The Rainbow Group in Amsterdam, which is a private charity that is primarily government funded, came up with the idea of paying those struggling to cope due to alcoholism, with beer. They are asking long term alcoholics to clean the street and compensating them with alcohol. Oh and cigarettes. Seems ridiculous right?

Now that I have been reminded of this phenomenon I decided to do some research to see how it worked for Amsterdam, as it must be doing something right to be encouraging other countries to join. According to an article written in January by BBC, it is doing just fine! They interviewed a man named Rene. He’s 52 and has been working for the Rainbow Group since day 1. Rene has four children and three ex wives that he has absolutely no contact with. He identifies alcohol as the only thing he has, that is there for him, in the good times and the bad. 


It is said that long term drinkers’ abstinence is not exactly a realistic goal. When people have been drinking for a long period of time, it is close to impossible to get them off it. In a situation where a charity such as the Rainbow Group has tried all of the alternatives, maybe supporting the habit on a controlled basis is the only way to improve the situation. In Amsterdam they have actually noticed fewer stabbings and muggings in the particular park where they recruited the alcoholics from. This makes for a safer community. Not only that, but they are doing this as a way to give some sort of structure to these alcoholics lives which may be the only answer to get their minds on the right path to recovery. Even gaining their dignity back will motivate them for improvement; as Rene said,

"They used to treat us like garbage. And now we are picking up garbage, we aren’t garbage anymore."

These workers are also supplied with cigarettes, a hot lunch, and at a rate of €1.25 per hour. To be more specific - daily they get around 5 beers, lunch, rolling tobacco, and about €10.00. Without the alcohol, these people wouldn’t be motivated to show up to work every day. The German city, Essen, has picked up on this as a way to give alcoholics a daily structure, and help them learn how to behave. The Addict Support Essin Charity is said to commence the project mid June (2014).


How do you feel about alcoholics being paid with beer and giving back to the society? Are you for this government funded project or not? Comment below.


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