German City Starts Controversial Beer for Alcoholics Program

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Essen is trading beer for cleaning services
Wikimedia/Grolsch

The city of Essen has started paying street cleaners in beer.

Officials in Essen, a city in the west of Germany, kicked off a controversial new program this week in which it will employ unemployed drug and alcohol addicts to clean the city in exchange for beer and small amounts of money.

According to The Local, the “Pick-Up” project will employ six unemployed addicts to sweep streets and pick up trash around the city’s main rail station. The undertaking will be overseen by social workers, and at the end of each shift the workers will be given a meal, three bottles of beer, and tobacco. The workers will also be paid €1.25, or $1.56, an hour for cleaning.

Opponents of the project say it takes advantage of the homeless for cheap labor, and they question the idea of giving beer to alcoholics. But the organizers say it is actually designed to help people get back on their feet.

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

Most of the participants are reportedly people who are addicted to multiple substances, and who have failed at other therapy attempts.

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

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