German city enlists alcoholics to scrub streets clean, pays them in beer

The ‘Pick Up’ project claims to add structure to addicts’ lives

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People in the German city of Essen will witness the start of a controversial project on Wednesday that aims to “bring back routine” to alcoholics' and drug addicts' lives by encouraging them to clean the streets in return for beer.

Based on a similar project in Amsterdam, the “Pick Up” scheme will see social workers monitor a team of six people as they sweep the city’s streets in four hour-long shifts.

The addicts enlisted for the work can then expect to be paid €1.25 (97 pence) an hour while given a warm meal, three bottles of beer and tobacco for those who smoke, after their shift, according to German newspaper Die Welt.

Suchtthilfe Direkt, the project managers behind “Pick Up”, said the initiative has been designed to keep alcoholics and drug addicts in touch with health workers, and to stop them from turning to harder substances.

“We want to use these incentives to bring back a routine for these people and provide additional care at our facilities,” co-ordinator Baerbel Marrziniak said.

But the scheme has drawn widespread criticism, with those opposing “Pick Up” calling it dehumanising and simply “cheap labour”.

“The city wants to get the homeless out of public sight. It should not be tolerated that beer is served to severe alcoholics, paid with public funds,” said Horst Renner, who works at a homeless shelter in Krefeld, a nearby city.