Why do cities not hire homeless people

Homelessness in Japan : The invisible

When the sun rises over Sumida Park in Tokyo, Mieko Lwai pushes her carefully folded cardboard boxes into a shaft under the bridge. Before the first joggers do their laps, the old lady has taken her place on her bench. Mieko lwai, 74 years old, wears neat brown loafers, a pink blouse, dotted socks and freshly washed jeans. She has combed her gray hair to the side parting, with reading glasses on her nose she is leafing through a newspaper. Every now and then Mieko lwai looks up to give the local pensioners a friendly nod. “They don't know I'm homeless,” she whispers. "Otherwise you wouldn't greet me like that."

Mieko lwai has lived in the park for six months, and at night she sleeps in a hut made of cardboard boxes. But the others are not allowed to find out, never. Mieko lwai would lose face. "My partner lost his job," she says, bowing her head to the side where Takahiro Minoru is sitting. She was a housewife all her life, Takahiro Minoru a factory worker for a school book publisher. The company went bankrupt. At 75, he was too old to find a new job again. Since he was never permanently employed, he was not entitled to a pension. “We had saved a good 200,000 yen, just for problems,” says Mieko Lwai. That corresponds to about 1450 euros. The cushion was quickly used up. It was no longer enough for the rent. They moved out. For a while, they wanted to spend the beginning of spring in the park. You had to stay.

A one-room apartment costs around 1000 euros

Tokyo is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. Even for many people with income, life is hardly affordable. In the Shibuya district in the west of the center, where hundreds of other homeless people live in addition to Mieko lwai in the popular Yoyogi Park, the monthly rent for a one-room apartment costs around 1000 euros, which corresponds to around a third of the average gross income. A train journey across the city can cost ten euros, and groceries are more expensive than in other countries.

But the myth of the nation without poverty has long since begun to crumble. There are around 6,000 homeless people in Tokyo. There are around 30,000 nationwide. Mieko lwai and her partner Takahiro Minoru, who does not reveal his real first name, are among them. They desperately try day after day to maintain the semblance of a bourgeois existence. Because not having an apartment is considered a great shame in Japan. The daily newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" has therefore given them a name: the invisible.

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