6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Asian Cities Face Pressure to House Net Cafe Homeless and McRefugees

Support Provided By


This story was originally published May 5, 2020 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Japan is scrambling to house an often overlooked group of homeless people who slept in internet cafes now shut due to coronavirus lockdowns, with a petition to open the Olympic Village in Tokyo to them garnering support.

At least 4,000 people without secure housing use cyber cafes to sleep, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, with 80% of those employed.

These cafes originally only provided internet services, but now have showers and private booths rentable by the hour, and have become popular with commuters who miss the last train home and the homeless, particularly women, according to charities.

RCHIVE PHOTO: Homeless Makoto Shinbo eats his lunch at his makeshift house at Miyashita park in Tokyo, Japan, February 17, 2017. Picture taken on February 17, 2017. | REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
RCHIVE PHOTO: Homeless Makoto Shinbo eats his lunch at his makeshift house at Miyashita park in Tokyo, Japan, February 17, 2017. Picture taken on February 17, 2017. | REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Authorities have got hotel rooms for about half of them, said Ren Ohnishi, chairman of Moyai, a housing nonprofit.

"But many of them are unaware that authorities have secured hotel rooms due to limited communication by the city, and the application process is also very confusing," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ohnishi has called on city authorities to open up the Olympic Village for all homeless people now that the 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed, launching an online petition which has got more than 53,000 signatures.

The Olympic village was to house 11,000 athletes during the 2020 Games, that are now scheduled to be held in 2021.

"It is a high-capacity accommodation that can be used for a longer period. It would be a symbol of support and solidarity for Japan," Ohnishi said.

The Olympic organizing committee "has not yet received a formal request regarding this matter," according to an email from Tokyo 2020.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government did not respond to requests for comment.

Some 1.8 billion people worldwide are homeless or live in inadequate housing, according to the United Nations.

Hong Kong is struggling with a similar problem as so-called McRefugees, or people who sleep in McDonald's fast-food restaurants, find themselves out on the streets.

There are more than 400 McRefugees in Hong Kong, according to the charity Society for Community Organization (SoCO).

The Hong Kong government has given grants to charities to provide emergency shelter and short-term accommodation for the homeless, a spokeswoman for the Social Welfare Department said.

A total of 635 such places provide overnight or temporary accommodation for street sleepers, she said.

But these measures fall short of what is required, said Jeff Rotmeyer, founder of homeless charity ImpactHK, and the McRefugees risk missing out on welfare and health services more than those in shelters.

"They are the worst off," he said. "They are visible yet invisible to most, as they do not appear to be homeless, and are not in the places where the homeless typically are."

Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith.

Support Provided By
Read More
Farmworkers who harvest and pack bell peppers in the Coachella Valley listen to Montserrat Gomez explain the benefits of the covid vaccines.

Dispelling Vaccine Misinformation and Myths in California’s Breadbasket

Even though farmworkers are vulnerable the coronavirus, many hesitate to get the vaccine, worried the shot could have severe side effects or signal their whereabouts to immigration officials. Immigrant advocates in the Coachella Valley and other farming regions are visiting workers to try to allay their fears.
Trish Tanenbaum receives her first COVID-19 vaccination at Dodger Stadium on January 30, 2021.

Shortage to Close L.A. City Vaccine Super Sites

The mayor lamented the closure as an “enormous hurdle.” But vaccinations aren't completely stopping.
Faith leaders, activists and family members hold a public memorial in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco to honor 17 people who died of COVID-19 while in prison or ICE detention. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Health Over Punishment: Organizing Efforts to Stop ICE Transfers in California and Beyond

Public health workers and grassroots organizers are intentionally building collective power across issues and communities for health equity.