Community Development in Kamagasaki

<General Statement>

Status quo of the area"
Kamagasaki Area is called "Yoseba"---laborers' community---that locates itself in Nishinari Ward, Osaka City and houses approx 20,000 day laborers together with 160 hostels for them. In recent days, Kamagasaki came to have several thousands rough sleepers around the area, which attributed to Japanese economic downturn and the aging laborers' community, averaged 55 yrs old. There are 7,757 rough sleepers counted in Osaka Prefecture (6,603 rough sleepers in Osaka City) ; out of the total number, the half of the people experienced working in Kamagasaki as day laborers. Nevertheless, this critical situation triggered remarkable movement in community development of the area.
From social exclusion to social rehabilitation and social inclusion
Many of the people who revisit Kamagasaki after long absence say, "What's going on in Kamagasaki!? How and from when has this change happened?" It is understandable.
Regarding the new movement in Kamagasaki, everything started in 1999. In 1999, NPO Kamagasaki Shien Kiko (Kamagasaki Support Organization) was established and the Hostel Association declared the plan "Utilizing 2000 Vacant Rooms" as for its contribution to the community; Kamagasaki Community Regeneration Forum was also established in the same year.
Those occurrences also meant the end of one-way orders from municipal government although we keep requesting their assistance. What we need are: rediscovering local assets and (human) resources which seemingly decaying in the old system, empowering the assets and resources by networking them, and developing the "capability of living" so that all the people can participate and become more self-reliant in the society. Those occurrences in 1999 make us feel Kamagasaki has been in the movement towards that goal. Kamagasaki, once seen as a socially excluded community, has already come to the turning point towards "social rehabilitation" and "social inclusion"---making a path towards overcoming problems such as unemployment, poverty and ill-managed welfare. Therefore, it is natural for visitors to think the change is inconceivable.
The movement towards social inclusion would not be bewildered although there seemed to be some troubles and unsuccessful trials. This non-profiting citizens' movement is not only seen in Kamagasaki but is seen worldwide, for instance, in New York, London and developing countries in South Asia. It is the time that Kama-yan (the mascot) hits the streets, as a self-reliant citizen. This new movement is certainly incredible to Kamagasaki, which used to be known as "resistance and confrontation" before 1999.

<Community Development in Kamagasaki:

in the case of Kamagasaki Community Regeneration Forum (KCRF)>

Mission and system of KCRF
Kamagasaki Housing Community took a lead of establishing Kamagasaki Community Regeneration Forum (KCRF) in fall of 1999. Mission statement of KCRF follows: KCRF is to organize forums and workshops in order to seek a vision on community development that regenerates lives of Kamagasaki residents and to implement plans based on the vision.
KCRF is a flexible network based on individual participation, aiming for regeneration of Kamagasaki community. It is individual participation that enables KCRF to adapt to various circumstances---even under inadequate situations. KCRF aims for developing voluntary activities on community development with residents, which do not depend on the government side. Each participant can present their own opinion as an individual, not only considering for existed organizations so that KCRF seek the vision on community development through workshops and share the vision to implement. Additionally, the first shared objective was community building that enables all the residents including formerly rough sleepers can keep living in Kamagasaki. (See the attached illustration.)
Furthermore, KCRF members can bring back the vision and plan to their own organization to let others know them, so that all the local organizations can relate and collaborate for the shared vision on community development. Consequently, all the local residents may have an array of choices for housing, medical care and welfare in order to keep living in the community for the rest of their lives. That is the system and the ultimate mission of KCRF. In the fact, KCRF has exerted considerable influence on the movement towards social inclusion for these four years.
Activities of KCRF
In 2000, KCRF generated Short Stay Assistance Program, collaborating with the Hostel Association in Kamagasaki. In the program, the Hostel Association provides from 6 to 10 rooms a day to the applicants who sign up at Nishinari Labour Welfare Center; it is one example of the collaboration between government and community side.
Moreover, some of the hostels have been refurbished into supportive housing---what we call, "Supportive House". So far, there are 9 Supportive Houses opened and almost all the rooms are occupied; in total there are about 1,000 residents. In a Supportive House, handrails are installed and a shared living room is open to the residents; also staffs can consult with residents on their health and living situations to support their self-reliant lives. People do not need security deposit and a guarantor when they start living in a supportive house---both of them are demanded when renting an apartment as a usual Japanese manner; this arrangement has made it possible for a rough sleeper who is no more capable to work for their age or sickness to utilize social benefit (Seikatsu Hogo: Public Assistance) in order to obtain a place to live and not to go back on streets. In this way, formerly rough sleepers can also realize self-reliance for the rest of their lives.
Other than the above, there have been various activities developed through the organizations with KCRF members. For instance, there are a patrol program for safety confirmation, a nursing care program, and trials on job creation. Places such as Taishi Welfare Center and Kamagasaki Eggs (a shared office for Kamagasaki community development NPOs) were provided by the hostel owners who appreciate the mission of KCRF. Local currency ("Currency Kama") has been implemented to realize mutual support in a unique way. "Kamagasaki Volunteer Training Course" has been opened since fall of 2001 in order to gather people who support those activities. The graduates from the training course consisted Volunteer Liaison Meeting and they have collaborated in special program for volunteers and researchers, gardening association, and literacy building course. In 2003 spring, "Let's go voting! Social Participation Campaign" executive committee was established and this locality was the only place that recorded higher turnout than before.
Besides, KCRF members took the lead of making a new town block association in the area that we named as "model area on social rehabilitation for rough sleepers". Also, "Hagino-chaya mutual support network", a self-reliant network for medical and welfare relating NPOs and volunteers, was established to take a part in the local welfare plan of Osaka City. From here on, KCRF is going to discuss on the issues such as rebuilding Nishinari Citizen Hall into "Hagino-chaya Local Welfare Complex Center (tentative name)" and setting the future vision on community development that aims to create a socially inclusive community.
There have been failures, but...
KCRF has not always been successful. More and more people came to participate as we proceed activities; then we came to face conflicts from different personalities and methods and also the conflicts from personal interests among stakeholders. In 2003, KCRF experienced a big disruption among members on discussing how to manage a nursing care office (a "helper station") in KCRF network. Notable advantage on forming community development network, however, is that members can cooperate each other for a different objective even when they had conflict on another objective. We came to learn trustable and respectable human network is the most important thing on proceeding activities. It is significant to make a further step from assistance provision to each rough sleeper towards the community building that enables anybody to keep living in the their community, Kamagasaki.

(C) Copyright 2001-2004, KCRF All rights reserved.