Habitat Japan’s home-cleaning support is made possible in part by collaboration with social service organizations, from which over half of our consultations stem from.

This October we received an urgent request for support from a local social service organization for help cleaning the home of Miyamoto-san (alias) who was hospitalized at the time. Living alone in their 50s, Miyamoto-san has diabetes and liver problems and has been shuffled in and out of the hospital for a long time. This time, having been in the hospital for a whole month, they told us that their environment at home was so poor that they wouldn’t be able to return home after leaving the hospital.

Home is a place full of precious personal memories and belongings. And so as a policy, Habitat operates with the cooperation of the homeowner on site to help guide volunteers on how best to clean and what to keep or throw away. However, due to the severity of the situation, it was decided to offer support without the homeowner present. To assess the situation inside of the room, we visited alongside a social worker with permission from property management.    

Upon opening the apartment door, we found boxes stacked to the ceiling and a floor completely covered by a sea of trash. After many years of diabetes treatments, there were even many discarded insulin needles lying around making for a dangerous and unsanitary environment. A social worker told us “last month, in poor health and at a loss for what they could do about their living environment, (Miyamoto-san) left home and was taken to the hospital after being found cowering on the street.” The home, which ought to be a safe and decent place to find shelter and rest, had slowly worsened alongside Miyamoto-san’s health, becoming an unmanageable and inhospitable space.

After discussing how best to support Miyamoto-san, it was decided that Habitat Japan would offer cleaning and tidying support so long as the home partner consented and a social worker would be present.

In November, one Habitat Japan staff, two Habitat volunteers, and three social workers visited the site for cleaning. As plastic trash, cans, and plastic bottles were collected in trash bags, the floor of the apartment slowly came into view. Stacks of boxes were lowered, their contents checked, and all but what the home partner asked to be kept was thrown out. Finally, heaps of documents taking up shelf space were collected, and all but what was necessary was disposed of. Two and a half hours of activity went by in a flash, and ultimately two truckloads of trash bags were taken away by local waste management, securing valuable space for our home partner's apartment. 

  • Before tidying

  • After tidying

After the day's activity, one social worker had this to say: "Even though Miyamoto-san is hospitalized, we were able to carve out a good space for them to return to in their absence with the help of Habitat volunteers. Before they get discharged, we’ll move a nursing bed in to the apartment and ensure that their caregiver can maintain this newly improved living environment".

Habitat Japan generally works hand in hand with home partners, supporting them while respecting their wishes and comfort. However, this time, taking the circumstances into account, we were able to work flexibly with the help of partner social services to best support our home partner and their environment. Miyamoto-san is set to be discharged early this December. To ensure their fresh start in a clean and safe environment, Habitat Japan will continue to watch over our home partners in collaboration with our partner social service organizations.