Amsterdam isn’t just the city of weed and a good time. It’s innovating social change by offering its alcoholics beer in exchange for their aid cleaning streets and parks.
AFP reports that, in exchange for their work, drunks receive “two cans of beer with breakfast, two cans at lunch, and one around 3:30 pm, in addition to 10 euros (about $13) and a half-packet of tobacco.”
The city aims to utilize manpower that had previously been idle, according to the AFP‘s interview with Gerrie Holterman, head of the Rainbow Foundation, which offers donations to the program. Instead of causing fights or harassing tourists, the alcoholics are gainfully employed throughout the day.
In 2001, the BBC published an article investigating the idea of Dutch pragmatism. The idea is that the problem of alcoholism “will happen anyway, whether they prohibit it or not,” so the country prefers to “tolerate it, rather than prohibit it and subsequently lose control.”
But not everyone is satisfied with Amsterdam’s use of alcoholics to serve a social purpose.
John Strang, a researcher with London’s National Addiction Centre and King’s Health Partners at the time, told TIME: ”It’s a less than perfect treatment, but for entrenched addicts, it gives them the first steps toward getting their life together…Some make a virtually complete recovery, but others, we get them from a bad place to a less bad place.”
What do you think? Is this program the perfect solution to a social problem? Or is Amsterdam ignoring the problems of its marginalized citizens?