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Continued: Amsterdam's pragmatic approach to problem alcoholics: pay them in beer, let them work buzzed

  • Article by: TOBY STERLING , Associated Press
  • Last update: January 16, 2014 - 9:01 AM

One critic of the project is politician Marianne Poot, of the rival conservative VVD party. In a position statement on her website, she praised the idea of forcing the men — who are on welfare — to work.

"But then it's not proper to give them an extra payment in addition," she said. "This really gives a completely wrong signal."

The men who participate are a lively bunch. Many are obviously buzzed at midday, and perhaps not highly effective at picking up trash, but jovial. Some say they aren't alcoholics, just heavy drinkers.

The foreman of one group, Fred Schiphorst, takes his job seriously. He wears a suit and tie under his reflective vest, which he says gives him a feeling of dignity. He says he is treated with more respect in the neighborhood. But he admits his off-the-job drinking is still up and down.

One introspective program participant is Karel Slinger, 50. He says frankly that his life hasn't been transformed by the program. His alcoholism is not under control. But he says on the whole, things have changed for the better.

"Yes, of course in the park it is nice weather and you just drink a lot of beer," he said of his old life. "Now you come here and you are occupied and you have something to do. I can't just sit still. I want something to do."

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