A German city is set to begin offering unemployed alcoholics beer in exchange for three to six hours of work a day cleaning the streets.
The taxpayer-funded “Pick-up” initiative will offer the beer in hopes of getting long-term alcoholics in the city of Essen to work, regain a daily routine and accept medical care, reports the German edition of The Local. Participants, many of whom have been in prison and are drug addicts, will work in exchange for the beer, medical services and food, and an hourly wage of €1.25.
The plan is controversial, but Addict Support Essen, the charity behind the initiative, defended its plan, saying abstinence is an unrealistic goal for many alcoholics.
“Some of them simply need the bottle of beer to become fit for work,” Addict Support Essen spokesperson Barbel Marrziniak, said according to The Local. ”If we didn’t give it to them, they would not turn up in the first place.”
Detractors are skeptical of the program and some say it’s irresponsible. Sabine Zschaler, chairman of the charity Homeless Support, said offering alcoholics beer is not going to help them regain their dignity, and she suspects most will work just enough for the beer, and then leave, reports The Local.
Addict Support Essen said in a statement it is simply using beer as a means to an end. “For the participants it is about a meaningful daily structure, feeling useful and learning a new way to behave,” said the statement.
A medical observer will observe the program during its one year trial, beginning in mid-June. The initiative was inspired by a similar program launched in Amsterdam.