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Japan sets up year-end homeless shelter

Japan sets up year-end homeless shelter

In a sign of hard times in Japan, hundreds of homeless people have taken refuge in a temporary shelter set up in Tokyo for the year-end holidays, when many job centers and government offices are closed, officials said Tuesday.
Next week, however, they will be back on the streets _ the shelter is only available for a week until Monday.
The Tokyo government decided to open the shelter in response to criticism last year, when around 500 homeless people gathered at Tokyo's Hibiya Park for food and shelter provided by private anti-poverty groups and volunteers.
The turnout then was so large that organizers ran out of tents, forcing the nearby health ministry to open its rooms as a temporary shelter during the New Year holidays.
City official Takeo Hayakawa said the temporary shelter was opened at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in central Tokyo. The shelter can accommodate around 500 people. He said about 300 jobless people came on the first day.
"We want the homeless to feel at ease at least during the New Year holidays," he said.
During the New Year's holiday, Japan's public offices are closed, making it hard for people who are suddenly without shelter to find a place to go.
While Japan's latest jobless rate improved from a record high of 5.7 percent in July to 5.2 percent in November, the nation's economy _ the world's second-largest _ is struggling to shake off its worst recession since World War II.
According to government estimates, there are about 15,800 homeless people in Japan, about half of whom live in Tokyo and Osaka. Private organizations have put the estimate much higher, at around 10,000 or more for Tokyo alone, but those numbers are hard to substantiate.
For Masato Otsuka, a 45-year-old man who lost a construction job on Saturday and has been in the shelter since it opened, the economic slump is a daily reality. Otsuka had been living in an apartment provided by his former employer, but after his contract ran out, he was evicted.
He learned about the Tokyo shelter from his friend, who also became jobless last month.
"I am at a loss as to how to support myself," he said. "At least during New Year holidays, I have a place to sleep and have hot meals. I am very thankful for that."
Apart from food and housing, the Tokyo government will provide the homeless with job and housing consulting and medical checkups at the shelter, Hayakawa from the Tokyo government said.
Naofumi Jin, a 51-year-old homeless man, also said he was grateful for the Tokyo shelter.
"I've been living in cheap hotels with my job as a day laborer. But job offers completely stopped in late November," Jin said. "I am totally exhausted by living as a day laborer. I will look for work after Jan. 4, but during New Year holidays, I will rest at the shelter."


Updated : 2021-04-12 04:41 GMT+08:00