Homeless people living at JR Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials clashed again August 25 as a group protested efforts by officials to provide them job counseling and accommodations at nearby facilities.
The group of about 50 homeless people, claimed that such counseling would be useless because the temporary accommodation term of up to one month is too short and would only serve to provide the metropolitan government with an excuse to forcibly evict all homeless people from the station’s underground concourse. The group took over a tent set up on the concourse by the metropolitan government for the job counseling session. When the officials tried to enter the tent, they met with resistance from some of the homeless people who surrounded them and shouted in protest. The officials were driven out of the concourse and forced to abandon plans to begin the counseling service.
“They don’t know what we really need,” said a homeless man in his 30s after the protest. “Most of the people here are old and unskilled laborers. The metropolitan government should provide us with job training before trying to simply get rid of us.” The government planned to counsel 25 homeless people and provide them shelter for up to one month at nearby facilities to help them become economically independent.
The counseling program was planned to break a stalemate after the city’s plans to build one temporary and five permanent housing facilities in Tokyo hit a snag due to harsh protests from local residents and municipalities, and even from the homeless themselves. The failure made prospects for those plans even more bleak, although officials said they will reschedule the counseling program for some time in September.
“It’s obvious that the metropolitan government will fail to offer us jobs anyway because there are few public works this year,” said Masaki Watanabe, 55, who came to the underground concourse in January after injuring his back and becoming unable to continue paying rent. Now he sometimes works at construction sites as a day laborer.
Some homeless people said they do not want to be confined to a welfare facility with strict rules. “After all, people here don’t want to enter a facility where they will have less freedom,” he said. “Our lives are our own. We don’t want to be ruled by anything.”