Temporary Housing Assistance And Its Impact On Japanese Home Insurance Claims – Official surveys by the metropolitan government found that 862 people, nearly all men in their 50s, 60s and 70s, were living on the streets, mostly sleeping in parks, train stations and rivers or on the roadside in Tokyo. That’s a very low number for a city of about 14 million, at 6 per 100,000 residents.
Advocacy groups say the true number of street homeless people sleeping rough is two or three times higher than the official estimate, based on daytime counts, as some work or walk outside. The Tokyo-based Advocacy Research Center for Homelessness (ARCH) conducted night-time counts that indicated 1,500 to 2,000 people were sleeping on the streets in the city’s central wards. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has said it will begin counting homeless people at night in its 2022 survey.
Temporary Housing Assistance And Its Impact On Japanese Home Insurance Claims
But homelessness in Japan is changing, manifesting in different ways and becoming harder to see and measure, support and advocacy groups say. More young people are thriving on homelessness, and many homeless people spend part of their nights in 24-hour Internet cafes, where they can rent a small booth with a computer and enough space for a 2-year-old to sleep. , 000 yen (£13) for a 12-hour night shift, or almost twice that for a full day. Most facilities also offer access to a shower and free drinks. Tokyo officials estimated there were about 4,000 “internet cafe refugees” in 2017, but that number may be much higher.
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Homeless youth probably bounce between spending nights at friends’ houses, internet cafes, all-night fast-food restaurants and on the street, activists say, making it difficult to get a real read on the problem. Masami Iwata of Japan Women’s University says the group represents a form of “invisible homelessness”.
There are clear signs that the pandemic has pushed many Tokyo residents to the brink of their financial resources. Volunteers working in the city for years have reported high numbers of people coming to their soup kitchens. These days, more than 400 people line up, about 100, to receive free bento and other food items at a bi-monthly soup kitchen run by the nonprofit Tenohasi and Doctors of World Japan in Ikebukuro, one of several downtown hubs. Before the pandemic. Similarly, the Moai Support Center’s free food giveaway is attracting more than 400 people a week in nearby Shinjuku, compared with 60 before Covid, said Ren Ohnishi, the nonprofit’s director.
That said, the number of people seeking government housing assistance has skyrocketed. Those approved for such emergency housing assistance rose 34-fold last fiscal year to nearly 135,000, from less than 4,000 the year before.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020 and Japan declared its first state of emergency, many internet cafes were forced to close temporarily. The Tokyo government has reserved several thousand rooms in business hotels around the city until the state of emergency ends, to prevent a sudden rush of people onto the streets. It’s a very public, if temporary, government move to help the homeless during the pandemic. Without it, ARCH co-head Nao Kasai said the number of street homeless would have increased.
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Tokyo does not have overnight-only shelters, common in the United States and elsewhere, where people can sleep for the night and leave in the morning. Emi Yaginuma, who helps oversee homelessness at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, said this kind of setup doesn’t fit with Tokyo’s broader goal of getting people to stop living on the streets and under roofs. “We shouldn’t be encouraging people to come and go and only stay in the shelter for a short period of time,” she said.
There are about 150 long-term, dormitory-like shelters in the city, where the government indirectly houses 4,000 people. However, these facilities have a poor reputation. Some are dilapidated and most are crowded, stressful places to live with lots of restrictions and little privacy. Many homeless people prefer the streets, advocacy groups say. During the pandemic, authorities allowed residents to live in these shelters but restricted new arrivals, placing them in business hotels instead.
NGOs say the government – whether at the national, metropolitan or ward level – has not done much to actively help those living on the streets in Tokyo deal with the pandemic. Social workers employed by the Tokyo city government regularly make rounds to check on people sleeping rough, handing out masks and leaflets with information about Covid-19. But advocacy groups say many things are not written in an accessible way that homeless people can understand.
Similarly, even though vaccinations are available to people affected by homelessness, authorities are reluctant to actually vaccinate them. Health Ministry officials told advocacy groups that while all citizens can get vaccines and information is available on official websites or at the local ward office, many homeless people don’t have access to the Internet and don’t want to visit. Ward offices. Advocacy groups had to push local officials to make that happen — and only after most of the rest of the country had been vaccinated.
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In Japan, policies, orders and most funding come from the central government, in this case the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, but it is up to local governments – in Tokyo, the 23 wards or cities of urban sprawl – to take action.
In a large city like Tokyo, the metropolitan government — which acts as a prefectural, or state, government — oversees vaccination efforts through local ward health centers, which are organized in different ways and at different speeds. “It’s all very decentralized,” said Akiko Mera, executive director at Doctors of the World Japan.
Concluding that government efforts to inform Tokyo’s homeless about vaccines were insufficient, Mera stepped up her engagement with local ward officials. She helped create easy-to-understand pamphlets among homeless people in Ikebukuro, northwest Tokyo, and conducted two surveys to gather their opinions about vaccinations, where her team focuses its work.
Some were skeptical, claiming officials were using them as guinea pigs, and some worried about side effects. But many of them expressed a desire to be vaccinated, and Mera used this data to convince local ward officials to work with her team to provide vaccinations to any homeless person who was interested.
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While most Japanese citizens mail a vaccination coupon, this is an obvious problem for many who are homeless. So Mera and her team spread the word that homeless people in Ikebukuro could get their first shot on a certain date in late November after two weeks of soup kitchen lunches.
Media coverage of homelessness in Japan increased after the pandemic began, but focused on how the pandemic’s economic fallout was pushing people to the brink, not on the challenges faced by people newly threatened with homelessness or how to vaccinate them. People have more sympathy for people who are newly threatened by homelessness, but not as much care or concern for those who have been affected for years.
After the collapse of the economic bubble of the 1980s, Japan experienced an increase in homelessness in the mid-to-late 1990s, but the size of the problem has gradually decreased since then. An official national homelessness count was not maintained until 2003, when the government estimated that around 25,000 people were sleeping rough across the country, a number that has now dropped to just under 4,000. This does not include people sleeping in internet cafes. .
A major factor behind the decline, experts say, is the more liberal use of a public assistance program known as “livelihood protection,” which provides government money to the poor and people without assets or family to depend on. For a person in Tokyo, it provides eligible people with 53,700 yen (£350) in monthly housing assistance, which can be used to cover apartment rentals or living in government-funded shelters, and about 75,000 yen (£485). in living expenses. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, strict enforcement of standards meant few people received such help, but authorities have become more flexible over the past 15 years.
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Until recently, in order to get this money the authorities allowed the applicant to contact the family to see if they could support them. This discouraged many from applying because they were embarrassed to let family know they were indigent or strained relationships with them. In recent years, this requirement has been waived if applicants do not want to contact relatives, but some are still concerned that officials will do so. Only 20-30% of those who qualify still take advantage of it, says Hiroshi Goto, professor of social welfare at Rikkyo University.
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