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Citizens groups petition Tokyo gov't to secure lodgings for the needy over holiday season

Citizens group members, including Anti-Poverty Network secretary-general Daisaku Seto, third from right, hand a petition to a Tokyo Metropolitan Government official, at the metropolitan assembly hall in the capital's Shinjuku Ward on Dec. 2, 2022. (Mainichi/Satoshi Tokairin)

TOKYO -- Citizens groups have filed an urgent petition with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government calling for it to secure lodgings for those in need to stay in over the year-end and New Year holiday season, as rising commodity and utility prices are further restricting their livelihoods already impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Dec. 2 petition was submitted by 14 groups engaging in activities to support the needy in the capital, including Emergency Action for COVID-19 Disaster, Anti-Poverty Network, and Tenohasi, which has run soup kitchens and provided consultations for those people.

    The petition includes a request for the metropolitan government to: publicize the 50,000-yen (about $370) special allowance system for households exempted from residential tax; avoid compelling homeless people applying for welfare benefits to live in free or low-fee lodging houses or other facilities; and avoid easily stopping water supplies to those who are behind on their utility bills.

    According to the groups, many people hesitate to go on welfare as they have in the past been introduced to free or low-fee lodging facilities with shared rooms even though they did not request such accommodation. While the metropolitan government explained that free or low-fee lodgings are provided on the premise of offering private rooms, the citizens groups pointed out that there are cases of people living in 10-occupancy rooms at certain lodgings, and cited the names of those facilities.

    Daisaku Seto, secretary-general of Anti-Poverty Network, said, "I want the metropolitan government to interview users of those facilities, not just their staff, to grasp the true picture on-site and better respond to problems."

    As the metropolitan government secured hotels for those in need to stay during the holiday season in 2020 and 2021, the citizens groups called on the capital to take similar steps again this year. As officials stopped short of giving a clear-cut answer about this, the groups urged that the metro government arrange an opportunity for further talks.

    (Japanese original by Satoshi Tokairin, Tokyo City News Department)

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