Homeless people in Tokyo

As I foretold in the last mail, this time I will tell you about the problem of homeless people in Tokyo.

It is reported that there are about 5000 homeless people who live in parks, on roadsides or riverbanks in Tokyo, one fifth of them are in Sinjuku area.
The number of them began to remarkably increase after the Bubble-Burst in 90fs.

An incident which attracted attention of ordinary people occurred in 1996 in Sinjuku. Along a roadside near Tokyo metropolitan office, a huge number of homeless people had gathered and made cardboard houses one by one, and settled in them. Naturally they became the obstacle to business for nearby shop owners. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, asked by the shop owners, forcibly expelled them out of there, and people who watched the situation on TV became aware of the problem.

In the meantime, TMG issued a series of program consisting of short term accommodation and job training for homeless people. TMG officials say that no less than 3000 people have got back to ordinary lives thanks to the program so far. But the total number did not decrease because new people dropping out of society had come into homeless lives. The phenomenon is said to be caused by the long depression of Japanese economy.

Two years ago, a law aimed at support for self reliance of homeless people was enacted. The law declares that administrators are responsible to establish measures for self reliance of homeless people, but does not prepare definite means.

This year, TMG issued a new measure against homeless problem.

With the situation near at hand that free access for ordinary people to parks is prevented by homeless people, TMG plans to lead them to live in low cost accommodations and give them jobs. If this measure got a success, the number of homeless people is expected to drastically decrease.

As you know, while I was at a post in Redevelopment Office, I got forced to remove homeless people living along riverbank of Sumida River because they became obstacle to our job. There was no useful means to get rid of them at the time. So we made a contemporary camp in a corner of the area, and made them live there collectively. That was of course not a long term solution, but we succeeded to continue our job thanks to it. As of now, we may not be able to do similarly.

As to number of homeless people living around Sinjuku Station Nisiguti, we estimate it as 300 or 400. Many of them live in Chuou Kouen, and rest of them along roadside. There are several groups supporting them. They give some services, such as food supply, help in emergency, and various consultations.

Recently we made some clearances of roads populated with homeless people, removing rubbishes or cardboard houses currently not used, but never forced them to get away.

A few days ago, a murder happened among homeless members living along riverbank of Kanda River between Iidabasi and Sin-Edogawabasi. A previous day, we had made a survey over every one of them with help of Police, so the Police could easily arrest the suspect.

A Letter from Kosai

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