Controversial program insists it's helping alcoholics with their addiction


A program in the Netherlands is getting people with serious alcohol addictions off the streets and putting them to work.

There's controversy surrounding the program because the pay includes beer.

Fred Schiphorst, like all of his co-workers, is an alcoholic. These beers might as well be their morning coffee.

"The first beer, I'm shaking, when I have one or two beers, it's over," says Schiphorst.

The men are part of an unusual social project.

It's a partially government funded program to pay alcoholics to pick up litter for beer.

They get two in the morning, two at lunch, and one at the end of their shift.

The workers also get a half a pack of rolling tobacco, about $13 and a hot lunch.

The goal is to get them off the streets where they drink all day, and into a daily routine.

Project leader Jeanette Van Der Noord says, "It gives them something to do. It's a reason to get up, they have contact, fellowship. And they're not drunk here. They only get 5 beers, which they need to feel not ill."

To understand how a program like this gets started in the Netherlands, you have to understand Amsterdam as a whole. It's a culture with almost no taboos, a place where everything is out in the open.

From legal sex for sale in the red light district to legal marijuana at the coffee shops, the people of Amsterdam have little to hide. Even their home windows are rarely curtained.

Their problems are up for discussion.

One of the workers in this program was sleeping on a train station floor before he joined the project.

They all may still be drinking, but they claim it's a lot less than before.

Some say they are trying to stop drinking, and others say this gives their day a rhythm they didn't have before.

A rhythm that doesn't just give them a chance to restore their city, but their pride.

Read or Share this story: