Activities by support groups continued during the Golden Week holiday period through Wednesday in order to help people hit hard by the prolonged COVID-19 crisis.
Among those who have gathered for free meals and other services in recent months are young people and people with children, groups that were rarely seen at such venues before.
A member of a support group said, “People in need have become worn out mentally now that one year has passed since the first emergency declaration.” The government’s third state of emergency over COVID-19 is in effect in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.
On Monday, 150 bento meals were distributed at St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward under an initiative by some 40 support organizations. Homeless people and other visitors received the meals, along with clothing and face masks. Consultation services were also offered.
A single mother in her 30s, who received bento at the venue with her daughter, said that her part-time work was reduced substantially due to the impact of the pandemic.
“Our lives are becoming tough, and we appreciate an event like this,” she said.
Accommodation facility operators are also giving support to people in need.
Junon, a hotel group based in Osaka’s Nishinari Ward, has launched a program at two hotel chains it operates, allowing customers to stay for ¥390 per night. A total of 100 rooms are available under the program.
The hotel group offered a similar program in January this year.
Masaki Kakutani of Junon said, “We hope the rooms will be used by those who lost their jobs as job-hunting bases and for other purposes.”
According to a labor ministry survey, since February last year, people who were dismissed or saw their employment contracts terminated without renewal because of the virus crisis and those who are expected to receive such treatment have added up to over 100,000.
Daisaku Seto, secretary-general of the Anti-poverty Network aid group, said that a number of people have been evicted from their homes for not paying rent and other reasons.
Such people increased sharply in January, when the government declared its second COVID-19 state of emergency, and later, Seto also said, noting that more and more people are faced with poverty regardless of age, sex or nationality.
“I want administrative institutions to fully understand that we’re in a very severe situation,” Seto said.
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