In 2107 Habitat for Humanity Japan launched Project HomeWorks, a support program to assist those in need of improving their living conditions in the Tokyo area. Our aid reaches out to two fundamental necessities: the possibility of exploring new options or protecting the existing.
Fast forward to today, we witness how the impact COVID-19 has on the already difficult living situations of many. Through our partnering organizations, we are receiving more inquiries daily from those who lost their homes due to this global pandemic.
While housing may not seem to be a common issue in Japan, there exists a different reality for an undeniable portion of the population, well before COVID-19 knocked on our doors.
For those living in company housings, losing their job means losing their home. For day laborers and non-regular employees who cannot afford the monthly rent, manga-cafes are often a resort for daily accommodation. After the nationwide state of emergency declaration in April, an estimate of 4,000 people who sought refuge in places like internet cafes across Tokyo lost their only place to sojourn.
Social security in Japan provides public assistance as a safety net for those in need. Living and housing support, depending on the level of financial hardship, not only seeks to guarantee a minimum level of well being but also assistance to a way to self-sufficiency. Becoming a livelihood recipient is a significant step. For that reason, the Program for Self-Support of Needy Person offers assistance for pre-recipients that focus primarily on rebuilding a self-sufficient living. While many public offices offer consultancy and a variety of support programs, the complexity of each case often leaves those seeking advice without a straightforward personalized solution.
When you lose your home with no financial backup, getting back on your feet on your own can be an incredibly difficult challenge. When the state of emergency was initially declared, livelihood recipients were considered ineligible for certain temporary accommodations provided by the city of Tokyo, such as business hotels. That was because livelihood recipients were often advised to use a support program called Free Low-Cost Accommodation. Unfortunately, the program mainly provides beds in shared rooms, which under COVID-19 is considered to be an unhealthy option.
As a way to take action, our supporting organizations collectively filed an emergency request to the local government and were successfully granted a modification to reconsider the conditions. Livelihood recipients are now eligible to request business hotels as their temporary accommodation.
On the other hand, given the nature of this unprecedented global pandemic, social security schemes are subjected to daily revision. Keeping up with essential information is more challenging for those in urgent need to find a way to self-sufficiency, many of whom lost their homes. Ironically, without proof of residence, many are denied the right to the support system they desperately need.
In our three years of experience connecting essential housing through Project HomeWorks, we have witnessed the challenges our most vulnerable people encounter on the issue. In many cases, livelihood recipients, retirees relying solely on pension income, or those living with disabilities, are only authorized a limited number of accessible homes and often met unfairly with the misunderstandings of rental owners.
Inevitably, this April saw an increase of 24,8% in welfare applications as COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow and threaten the stability of living situations of too many.
That is why at Habitat, we are devoted to providing support for those currently living under the Free Low-Cost Accommodation system to transfer to more stable and independent living status (such as apartments) with the assistance of the Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund. We offer comprehensive assistance from obtaining vital information, accompanying house viewings, assisting contract procedures, and eventually acquiring basic home necessities.
Our goal is to support rebuilding lives through the foundation of essential housing. For those in need of assistance, please contact us with any inquiries.