Amid dengue outbreak, eviction also a threat to Yoyogi Park’s homeless

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The greatest danger the outbreak of dengue fever traced to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park poses to the homeless there may be the threat of eviction, not infection, advocates said Tuesday.

The park is a hub for homeless people, many of whom take shelter inside makeshift blue tarpaulin tents.

Of the 35 people reported infected with the virus as of Tuesday, all had visited the park within the past month, but none were homeless.

Dr. Satoshi Kutsuna of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine was guardedly optimistic that any homeless possibly infected with the virus had escaped without falling victim to the most serious symptoms, including high fever, muscle pain and nausea.

Even without medical treatment, the disease generally passes after a week. Still, it’s possible things could turn very nasty, he added.

“At the moment, I’d say living in Yoyogi Park is a risky act in itself. So they should be provided with, say, temporary homes to take shelter in until the outbreak subsides,” Kutsuna said.

He stressed that the homeless likely had no role in the spread of the virus, given that most of them are in the park only at night, while the mosquitoes that carry the virus are active during daytime.

When contacted by The Japan Times, five Tokyo-based NPOs and agencies supporting the homeless said they weren’t aware of anyone with symptoms of the virus. They also said they weren’t planning to do anything out of the ordinary to locate potential victims, other than to continue with their routine patrols of the area.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization Moyai said it is more fearful that Tokyo officials will seize the chance to evict the homeless on the pretext of needing to eradicate the mosquitoes there. Though metropolitan officials tolerate the presence of homeless in the park, they also view them as a nuisance, according to Moyai representative Ren Onishi.

“So we’re afraid that the metropolitan government might start ordering them to pack up their stuff and go under the pretext that it needs to spray pesticide over the area or something,” Onishi said.

  • Charlie Sommers

    Since dengue fever in not spread from person to person I fail to see any purpose in the relocation of the homeless. They would seem to have enough problems without having eviction added to the list. They should be shown some compassion and helped as much as possible.

    • 21Mac

      I was under the impressiom Dengue is spread to infected mosquitos primarily from people, rather than from Deer or what not. Seperately, a city park does seem a strange place for people to sleep on a permanent basis. From that perspective, it would seem logical to provide a dual approach of eviction and housing with, for those few who aren’t working, assigned employment. And I suspect homeless people mostly do have jobs–mostly in constuction, perhaps, to go by the fact that most cite their last job as construction, according to the Tokyo City Government–just no home, besides their tent, near their place of work. The very ordery homeless sleeping on the lawn in the middle of the daytime on the broad lawn beside the visitor’s parking lot of the Imperial Palace perhaps are very temporary construction workers who work at night and go home on the weekend to Aiichi or wherever they are from.

      • Charlie Sommers

        You are right, Dengue is spread from bites from mosquitoes that have picked it up by biting an infected human. Their needs to be some way to differentiate between those who are homeless as a money saving way of life and those who are homeless from necessity. Those who can’t help their condition because of mental illness or other such circumstances should certainly be helped.