Severe pain in the back and defecation problems… The harsh reality of “people living in a car” with only a few tens of yen in their pocket!
Nonfiction writer Kota Ishii takes a close look at the reality of the "young homeless," young people who have lost their homes!
People who live in their cars are called “car dwellers. They live in their cars as a substitute for housing, sleeping and waking up in their cars.
In rural areas in particular, the percentage of car owners is higher than in urban areas, as cars are a major means of transportation. Such people continue to own cars even if they have difficulties making a living, so they sometimes sleep in their cars after they give up their residences. In this sense, it is easier for the needy living in rural areas to become car dwellers.
However, their lives are not easy. A local government official in Kyushu who provides support for the needy stated, “The inside of the car where they live is a garbage dump.
The inside of their cars often looks like a garbage dump. When we were able to help them, the inside of the car was full of insects and foul smells, and they were also suffering from several diseases. Once they are living in a car, it is difficult to connect them to support, so it seems that their living environment can deteriorate rapidly in a closed environment.
There are two main types of people living in cars.
1・People who have a house but live in a car in search of “saving money” and “living comfortably.
2・People who have lost their homes due to poverty and have no choice but to live in their cars.
Surprising Vehicle Ownership Rates among the Impoverished
The former are those who live in their cars due to the way people live.
Some people who have jobs (many are self-employed) that take them around rural areas for deliveries or sales jobs are accustomed to spending time in their cars. Then there are those who live in their cars because they think it is a waste of time and money to return home after each job in a rural area.
There are also cases where people who are not comfortable interacting with others live in their cars. They spend time in their cars because they find it stifling to be in the company’s crowded dormitories or because they are fed up with relationships in company housing.
What we will look at in this series of “Young Homeless” is not the first case I have just introduced, but mainly the second case I will discuss in the next section. In other words, these are people who lost their homes due to poverty, but happened to have a car and decided to sleep there.
Kazuki Suzuki of POPOLO, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to the needy. Kazuki Suzuki, executive director of POPOLO, a nonprofit organization that provides support for the needy, said, “Our organization provides support for 100 to 120 people a year.
Our organization shelters 100 to 120 people a year, and the percentage of those who own a vehicle is about 10%. This means that about 10% of the people we support have experience living in a vehicle. However, compared to those living on the streets or in Internet cafes, those living in cars are less likely to be connected to support, so I think the actual number is much higher.
What is the process by which young people come to live in cars? We would like to share the experiences of those who agreed to be interviewed.
Living in poverty: A man (27 years old at the time of living in a car)
Taiyo Kishizaki (pseudonym) grew up in a seaside town in Wakayama Prefecture. He was raised by a single parent and his mother had a mild mental disability.
Because of his reclusive personality, Taiyo was constantly bullied from elementary school through high school, and had no friends he could call friends. He did not join any club activities, was always alone, and played video games at home.
After graduating from high school, Taiyo’s mother suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and although she survived, she was left paralyzed. She was considered too mentally handicapped to live on her own, so she was taken in by her uncle.
Her uncle told Taiyo, “I’ll be your guarantor and borrow the apartment.
I will be your guarantor and rent an apartment for you so that you can live independently.
The uncle probably could not afford to take care of Taiyo.
As if a thread had been cut, he suddenly ……
While living in his apartment, Taiyo got a job in the plumbing industry, which his uncle introduced him to, but within six months he quit, saying, “The job doesn’t suit me. The next job he got was in shipping, and the next was in warehouse maintenance, but in each case he quit abruptly after a few months.
It seems that the reason he kept changing jobs was due to his characteristics. When he started a new job, he worked as if he was a different person for the first month or two, but somewhere along the line, he reached his limit. Then, as if a thread snaps, he suddenly stops going to work and fades away.
He says, “It’s probably just my personality.
I think it’s probably just my personality. Not only at work, but also in many other things. …… It’s always been that way. I was motivated to learn and study at first, but then I got tired of trying. …… （I feel bad about not going to work (without giving a reason to the company), but I feel like I have no choice in the matter.
He may have been born and raised in a certain environment, but in a harsh way, he lacks the ability to stay in one workplace, build good relationships with those around him, and tackle his work. So, no matter what he does, he drops out halfway through.
In the meantime, he gradually became financially strapped. He became several months behind in his rent and was finally evicted from his apartment. His uncle paid the arrears, but the relationship was cut off after that.
Having lost his housing, Taiyo began living in his car with a few changes of clothes and dishes. He slept and woke up in his car and worked at short-term jobs for a week or two to make ends meet. He seemed to be aware that he could manage a short-term, intensive job based on his previous experience.
He describes his life at that time as follows.
I kept my car in the parking lot of a 24-hour fitness center. When you join, you can use not only the gym but also Wi-Fi, drinks, showers, toilets, and so on. They even had a free morning service with bread and soup and stuff.”
According to him, if you join a 24-hour fitness gym, you can get by except for a place to sleep, do laundry, and have lunch and dinner. In other words, as long as you have a car to sleep in, your life can be whatever you want it to be.
The sun says, “Maybe I’ll get angry if I say this, but I don’t think so.
I may be offended if I say this, but for me it was an easy life. It wasn’t hard at all to sleep in the car, and it was more difficult to work all the time in one place to pay the rent for the apartment. So I thought that kind of life suited me.
Body damaged by eight years of living in a car
In his case, he was able to maintain his lifestyle by earning 60,000 to 70,000 yen a month from a short-term job. In the address section of his resume, he wrote the address of the apartment where he used to live.
He lived in the car for about eight years, but this life definitely took its toll on his body. His back began to ache, and eventually he could no longer walk.
He had no choice but to cry out to a private organization that assists the needy and was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a severe herniated disc. He even had difficulty urinating and needed surgery. He had to give up his car and go on welfare to get treatment.
Sun’s experience shows that the hurdles to living in a car are surprisingly low.
Today, there are not only Internet cafes, but also 24-hour gyms and other establishments that offer a variety of services to attract customers. That is what makes living in a car possible.
However, the life is not as easy as he says. When Sun was connected to welfare, he had only a few tens of yen in his pocket, and the inside of his car was trashed and filled with the smell of ammonia. The pain in his back probably made it impossible for him to even go to the bathroom.
However, men are not the only ones living in cars; there are also many young women in their 20s or so who live in cars.
Why would a young woman take the risk of living in a car? For the raw and real voice of this young woman, please read the second part, “Confession of a Woman in Her 20s Who Lived in a Mini Car”.
Part 2: Confessions of a Woman in Her 20s Who Lived in a Minicar
Interview and text： Kota Ishii
Born in Tokyo in 1977. Nonfiction writer. He has reported and written about culture, history, and medicine in Japan and abroad. His books include "Absolute Poverty," "The Body," "The House of 'Demons'," "43 Killing Intent," "Let's Talk about Real Poverty," "Social Map of Disparity and Division," and "Reporto: Who Kills the Japanese Language?
Photo： Kyodo News