NPO told to stop feeding homeless

by Alex Martin

The nonprofit organization Sanyukai, which aids the homeless in Tokyo’s Sanya district, has been ordered by the metropolitan government to stop handing out its weekly free meals along the Sumida River because local residents are complaining, the volunteer group’s chief said Friday.

Metro officials said most of the complaints were filed since last spring by parents of students attending local schools who fear the kids will come in contact with those waiting for free meals.

In addition, the activity infringes on Article 24 of the river law, which forbids occupancy of public riverbeds without proper authorization, according to the metro officials.

“We’ve been conducting handouts at the riverbed for over a decade. I don’t understand why we are receiving these complaints now,” Sanyukai Director Jean Le Beau said.

The group has been told to end the weekly meals, which attract 300 to 500 homeless people near Komagata Bridge, by March.

A metro official at the 5th Construction Office, which grants permission for occupation of roads and rivers, told The Japan Times they are only asking the group to relocate, and do not disapprove of its activity.

But Le Beau said they are having a difficult time finding an alternative public location away from residential areas, and said he was puzzled as to why, in such dire economic times, the city would want to halt their activities.

Le Beau noted that although meals are provided at another site, he feared that would be barred in the future, as his staff recently reported the location has begun to draw complaints.