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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 8 - 14  > Housing aid needed for people who became homeless due to COVID-19
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2020 April 8 - 14 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Housing aid needed for people who became homeless due to COVID-19

April 8, 2020
There are concerns that "a state of emergency" could increase the number of homeless in Japan because people who presently live in around-the-clock cafes will be forced out and many day laborers will lose their jobs as well.

During the state of emergency Prime Minister Abe Shinzo declared on April 7 in response to a surge of confirmed coronavirus infections, Internet cafes and comic/manga cafes in Tokyo will close.

Those who live in 24-hour cafes and have no fixed residence are called "Net cafe refugees". The number of such refugees in Tokyo alone is estimated to be around 4,000.

Inaba Tsuyoshi, who is an activist working for the rights of the homeless and offering them assistance, said that these refugees will have no place to sleep after Internet cafes and comic/manga cafes shut down. Inaba added that they may stay in late-night restaurants or live on the streets, and accordingly their living conditions will get worsen.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has budgeted about 1.2 billion yen to help corona-affected people who no longer have a place to live. It said it will provide temporary housing with the 1.2 billion yen. However, details are totally unknown as to how to apply for assistance, how many housing units will be made available, who can apply for assistance, and when it will become available.

Inaba said, "Government authorities must immediately ensure access to housing for people in need of accommodation. A slow start will mean pain and suffering, so our organization is securing evacuation shelters for people ineligible for public support and helping to create ad-hoc shelters for people waiting for public support."

Inaba added, "What we, private organizations, can do is very limited. Government measures such as the leasing of hotels are urgently needed."

On April 3, several advocacy groups submitted a written request to Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and to the chief of the metropolitan government's Public Health Bureau, calling for an adequate support system to needy persons. According to these groups, many facilities for the homeless are dormitory style. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, a better living environment that enables at least a minimum amount of social distancing from other residents is essential for the safety of society as a whole.
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