Alcoholics Paid In Beer
A group of alcoholics are being paid a salary in beer to clean the streets of Amsterdam (Reuters)

Alcoholics in Amsterdam are being offered five cans of beer a day in return for cleaning the streets.

The Rainbow Foundation Project is giving addicts £8, half a bag of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer for every day they work, two for breakfast, two at lunch and one after work.

As part of the initiative, funded by the Dutch government and public donations, the alcoholics are divided into two teams of 10 and work three days a week.

"This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam's Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women," said Gerrie Holterman, who runs the scheme.

"The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park."

Referring to the Netherlands' heroin shooting clinics, where addicts can receive the opiate for free, she added: "Heroin addicts can go to shooting galleries, so why shouldn't we also give people beer?"

The volunteers work from 9am until 3.30pm with a hot lunch served in between. Holterman continued: "You have to see things like this: everyone benefits. They're no longer in the park, they drink less, they eat better and they have something to keep them busy during the day."

Yet one of the participants in the scheme, referred to as Frank, disagreed with Holterman's assessment. The man, previously convicted for violence, said: "Of course we drink in a more structured way, but I don't think that we drink less.

"I think I can speak for the group and say that if they didn't give us beers then we wouldn't come," he continued.

"When we leave here, we go to the supermarket and transform the 10 euros we earned into beers. When the supermarket opens at 8:00 am, we're the first there so we can get some drinks."

In contrast to Frank, a former baker, Vincent said: "When I get home, I've already had a busy day and I don't necessarily want to drink.

"We also feel satisfied, a job well done, contributing to society despite the fact that we drink.

"What's also good is that the beer they give us is light, 5 percent, not 11 percent or 12 percent like I used to drink."

The Rainbow Foundation Project was created to assist heroin addicts 35 years ago, and runs three heroin shooting clinics in Amsterdam where users can take the substance in a controlled environment instead of on the streets of Holland's largest city.

The foundation also runs underground tours where past addicts take tourists around notorious haunts from their former lives.