We have seen the risk of needy people becoming car-dwellers in rural Japan, but how do they live in their cars? Continuing from the first part [Pus in the Butt… “Harsh Life in a Car with Children” forced by wife abuse and black money], we would like to introduce some real-life examples.
There is a way to tell which cars have people living in them and which do not. These are curtains and cardboard “blinds” attached to the windows of the cars.
Many people who live in their cars have so much stuffed in their cars that their belongings are clearly visible from the outside. Therefore, they are at risk of having their cars vandalized, being tampered with, or even being kicked out of the parking lot. In order to avoid this, they tend to put up window screens.
Most of them work low-paying jobs during the day, but since they have no address, their cell phones are essential to their social connections. Roadside stations, supermarket food courts, and convenience stores (Family Mart) have Wi-Fi is available at roadside stations, food courts of supermarkets, and convenience stores (Family Mart). The cell phones charged in the car are used to connect to the Internet.
Solar panels on the roof
In the words of a former car dweller, “I wanted to save a little money on gasoline.
I wanted to save as much money as possible on gasoline, so I used solar panels to power my car. That way I could boil water in the car with a kettle and cook simple meals on a simple stove. People who have been living in their cars for quite a long time naturally come to have various devices on their cars, some of which have solar panels and antennas on the roof and all over the hood.
This is probably the same as the homeless who, after living on the streets for a long time, build huts out of plywood or tin on riverbeds and attach solar panels to them, or even keep cats in them. The car itself will become a “residence.
However, the major difference between the car dwellers and those living on the street is that the car dwellers have little sense of “homelessness. Many of those living in their cars are working, and they have space to sleep. Therefore, even if they have been living in their cars for two or three years, they are not aware that they are homeless. This is another reason why they have difficulty connecting with assistance.
Kazuki Suzuki, executive director of the NPO POPOLO POPOLO, a nonprofit organization.
Normally, we have to provide support to the homeless before they become homeless in their cars. In other words, when they lose their homes and their livelihoods, they should be given public assistance. However, the presence of a car as ‘property’ may cause the government to take the wrong action, or the person may think he or she does not have the right to receive public assistance, and this does not lead to support.
Under welfare regulations, possession of a car is not permitted in principle. There are exceptions, however, and ownership is allowed if there are local characteristics or if the need is temporary. There is also a period of time during which the disposal of the car can be withheld for about a year after receipt (this deadline will also be lifted until the new coronavirus is contained).
However, needy people begin living in their cars thinking that they cannot receive benefits because they have a car. The government may also misguide or misjudge them and tell them that they must give up their cars if they want to receive welfare benefits. This is why they fall through the net of support.
Suzuki continues, “Private organizations also face a high hurdle in accepting people living in their cars. The reason is that they own cars. Private organizations do not have money, so it is rare for them to have a parking lot. Even if they own an accommodation facility to house needy people temporarily, they rarely have a parking space as well. But supporting people living in their cars means accepting their cars along with them, which means that a separate budget for parking is needed.”
For example, here is what happened. One day, a man contacted the POPOLO office. He wanted help because he was having trouble making ends meet and wanted to commit suicide, but was unable to do so.
Upon further questioning, the man told us that not only did he own a car, but that the car had lost its inspection. Although we had no choice but to leave the car behind and protect only the man, we had to do something about the car. They decided to have the man work and earn money, so they paid for the inspection and took the car back.
Why are support groups reluctant to accept people living in their cars?
Suzuki says, “Our organization has three cars parked in the parking lot.
Our organization rents a parking lot for three cars. However, one or two of them are for staff and visitors, so we can only rent one car to a person who was living in a car. That means that even if we wanted to help people who were living in their cars, at the same time we would be limited to one person. There are few places like ours that have parking lots, so I would say that most private organizations have difficulty accepting people living in their cars.”
There is another risk in taking in a car.
What happens if the person who accepts the car leaves it and disappears? Since the car is the property of the person, the private organization cannot dispose of it on its own. If they do, there is no guarantee that they will be sued later. In that sense, taking custody of a car is not only costly, but also an unnecessary risk.
Our family does about 100 ～to We receive about 100 to 120 people a year. We accept about 100 to 120 people a year, and we ask them to become independent within six months if they live in our accommodations. 60% become independent, but 40% leave voluntarily or disappear. When you think about it, you can see how high the risk is.
Under these circumstances, the number of people in need, including those living in their cars, is getting younger, according to POPOLO, and anyone who has received POPOLO’s assistance can be considered a “good candidate. Before the COVID-19 crisis 19 The average age of those who received POPOLO assistance in 55 years old in the 19 years before the Corona disaster, the average age was 55 years old. 21 In 1964, the average age was 55, but in 2009 it was 11 years younger than before 44 This figure includes those living on the streets, so if we look at those living in cars alone, they are probably even younger. This figure includes those living on the street, so if we look at those living in cars alone, they are probably even younger.
Suzuki says, “We have to talk to the government about this issue.
We sometimes talk with the government about this issue, but at present there is no roadmap for how to identify and support those living in cars. We can do something about street people and Internet cafe refugees, but people living in their cars only show up at night, and they change the parking lot where they stay one after another. It would be practically impossible for the government to discover and support them on its own. That is why we need to create a system that allows them to say, ‘Help me,’ before they become car-dependent.
It can be said that people living in cars are one of the most invisible forms of homelessness today. Considering that not only young people but also children are living there, we must face this problem with a greater sense of urgency.
The series “Young Homeless” is looking for people in their 10s to 40s who have no permanent place to live. These include people who have run away from home, Internet cafe refugees, migrant sex workers, people moving from one company dormitory to another, hotel dwellers, simple lodging residents, and people living in various support facilities. It does not matter if you are currently living in Japan or if you have had such experiences in the past. We are looking for many voices. We will accept conditions such as anonymity, so please contact the author.
Kota Ishii (Author)
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： Courtesy of POPOLO, a NOP corporation Reuters/Afro