Charity in Tokyo Told NOT to Feed Homeless

January 10, 2009

Nonprofit organization Sanyuka has been giving food to the homeless in Tokyo on a weekly basis for over ten years has been told to cease charity activities along the riverbed of the Sumida River. They have been giving out free meals to hundreds of homeless people, but have recently been asked to stop because of complaints from local residents.

City officials have been quoted as saying that they only want them to move. The group claims the area they use is the best place in the area to give out the meals without disturbing local residents. Local residents have been complaining that they were concerned that schoolchildren might come into contact with the homeless people waiting for meals.

My first reaction is that I seriously doubt that the riverbed is along the route by which kids return the school. It sounds more like a new family came in, or a member of one of the local apartment buildings started to want to complain. If it’s only once a week, there’s also a strong possibility that it’s being given out on Sundays when there’s no school for elementary school kids (junior and senior high kids probably have club activities), and volunteers are easier to get.

I’ve been trying to find Sankyukai’s homepage to get their side of the story, or some more detailed information but haven’t had any luck. I did however find a few blogs that mention the problem of the homeless sleeping by the Sumida River. This may be part of the problem, but I don’t think it will go away if charities just stop giving out meals. The homeless problem is both large and ignored in Japan.

Bear with me through what at first may seem like a nonsensical sentence. However, another big problem that comes up with homelessness in Japan is the fact that they are homeless. The Japanese beaurocracy needs an email address before it will make a move. Being homeless means having no fixed address means having no way to get any kind of benefits like job support services or welfare services. Hello Work, the employment wing of the national welfare service also needs a fixed address and registration with a certain ward or city before they’ll help. The only option for a homeless person in Japan is to get a home. If you have lived in Japan you have also probably seen the kind of money they expect up front on most apartments.

I am starting to veer off topic now, but part of the point is that homelessness is a problem in Japan with all of the problems you might encounter in other countries as well. Homelessness and homeless people are only going to increase in Japan with the problem magnified by the beaurocracy.