For years, German cities have tried to come up with a solution to prevent unemployed alcoholics from wreaking havoc in public. These drunks have been known to urinate on the streets and leave broken glass behind in playgrounds, but until recently, the dominant approach has been to try to keep these people off the sauce one way or another.
Recently though, the German city of Kiel took a different approach: they opened up a special “drinking room” intended specifically for unemployed alcoholics.
“The Sofa is Germany's first drinking room, a sort of crash smoking room for alcoholics,” Der Spiegel reports. “Most of the people who frequent the place are serious alcoholics and are allowed to bring their own cheap beer and sangria. The bar itself only serves soft drinks and strong coffee.”
It may sound counter-intuitive at first to provide a nice place for alcoholics to drink. Yet, not only does this facility keep many rowdy drunks off the street, but it also provides local social workers with easier access to troubled citizens. According to Der Spiegel, The Sofa is actually run by social workers, who frequently offer “advice” to the patrons on fixing up their lives while they sip their drinks. In fact, The Sofa has already proven so successful that other German cities are looking to create similar establishments.
Of course, public drunkenness is not just a European problem, but an establishment like this would definitely prove controversial here at home. For one thing, taxpayers are responsible for picking up part of the tab, although since no alcoholic beverages are actually served here, the tax money is not directly going to pay for booze, just the upkeep.
Kiel may have pioneered this idea, but they are not the first European city to come up with an unusual approach to cleaning up the streets. A few years ago, Prague decided to stick a bunch of homeless people on a boat in order to keep the city orderly. Seriously.