- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Homeless alcoholics will soon be paid in beer and cigarettes to sweep the streets of Essen in western Germany.

Social workers will closely oversee the project dubbed “Pick Up” in the rundown area around the central railway station in the industrial city in North Rhine-Westphalia, The Local reported.

An initial six people will sweep streets and collect garbage in return for roughly $1.58 an hour, a warm meal, tobacco and three bottles of beer after their shift has ended.

“The project participants are people who need to have a daily structure just to get back on their feet,” project coordinator Oliver Balgar, of Suchthilfe Direkt (Direct Addiction Help), told Bild newspaper.

Participants will likely be long-term unemployed and heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol, the group said in a statement, The Local reported.

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

The taxpayer-funded plan has drawn backlash from critics who say the program dehumanizes people with serious needs and exploits them for cheap labor.

A similar plan was adopted last year in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark, with the Rainbow Foundation Project using government grants to pay the homeless in beer and tobacco to clean up the city.

Gerrie Holterman, who ran the project, said it kept the homeless occupied throughout the day and even helped them drink less.

A man named Vincent said the program not only made him drink less, it gave him a sense of purpose.

“When I get home, I’ve already had a busy day and I don’t necessarily want to drink,” he said at the time. “We also feel satisfied, a job well done, contributing to society despite the fact that we drink.”

The Oosterpark program paid the alcoholics $13.53, half a pouch of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer for every day they showed up for work.

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