German City Of Essen Hiring Alcoholics To Clean The Streets, Will Pay Them With Beer

The German city of Essen plans to put alcoholics and drug addicts to work cleaning the streets and collecting garbage, and it’s going to be paying them with beer.

The city announced a new “Pick Up” program for run-down areas of the town around the central railway station. An initial crew of six people, made up of homeless people with drug and alcohol addictions, will work for 1.25 Euros per hour (about $1.58 in American dollars) along with a warm meal and three bottles of beer after each shift. Smokers will also get a few cigarettes at the end of their work day.

Critics have called Essen’s plan to pay alcoholics with beer dehumanizing, while others argue that the government shouldn’t be giving alcoholic drinks to those struggling with addiction.

But organizers say the employees are under close oversight from social workers, and that the idea is based on a successful Dutch model that’s been shown to help severe addicts slowly re-integrate into society.

“The aim of the program is not to supply people with beer,” organizers explained. “For the participants it is about a meaningful daily structure, feeling useful and learning a new way to behave.”

They argue that asking alcohols to go cold turkey to quit is harmful, and that bottles of beer will actually help keep them from harder alcohol. And it all takes place under the watchful eye of aid workers.

“The project participants are people who need to have a daily structure just to get back on their feet,” coordinator Oliver Balgar told Bild newspaper.

But not everyone is buying the argument.

“This is not about the human being, as officials claim,” said Horst Renner, who works at a homeless charity in the nearby city of Krefeld. “The city wants to get the homeless out of public sight.”

The Essen program to employ alcoholics and pay them with beer was supposed to start earlier in the summer, but was put back.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]