After a number of clashes over the years with homeless people living in Shinjuku Station’s underground concourse, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has organized a job counseling program that accepted applications Oct. 13 at a briefing for the concourse dwellers.Such a service has been hindered partly due to protests from the homeless themselves, who feared it would provide an excuse for the metro government to forcibly evict them from the area. Welfare officials opened the briefing only after promising that the program, to begin this month, would not be used as a pretext to “clean up” the concourse.At around 9:30 a.m., about 30 security guards hired by the metro government lined up to section off about 50 homeless people who had gathered at a bicycle parking lot near the station. While officials outlined the program to them, some concourse dwellers expressed concern over whether the project could really help them find employment under current business circumstances.Many of the homeless said the temporary accommodations to be provided during the two-month counseling project would prove futile because they would probably have to move back to the streets when the project ended. They cited the severe situation of the construction labor market and the advanced ages of the homeless as reasons why employment was difficult to obtain. “Other than for young men, it would be very difficult to land a job now. Wouldn’t it be the same even after two months? Can you take responsibility if (we) cannot find a job?” one of them asked welfare officials.The program, which officials regard as a test case, is far from a solution to the problem, observers said. Up to 25 people can apply for the program. Twenty applied Oct. 13, bringing the number to 22 after two telephone applications were received in September.According to Furusato No Kai, a Taito Ward-based volunteer group, at least 550 people are living in the concourse or along the walkways outside the station. Government officials suggested that the program could be expanded if it produces good results.
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