The main purpose of the second stage is to revitalize the Kamagasaki community so that anyone can live there for an extended period of time. According to our survey, 70% of the laborers answered, "I want to keep living in Kamagasaki or the surrounding area".
Some say they wish to maintain their commercial activity in Kamagasaki; others say they wish to live in Kamagasaki for a long. Although there are several problems such as gaps in consciousness and conflicts among the local residents, they need to collaborate and produce a new system to see their wishes fulfilled.
Please take a look at the whole system of the second stage. It forms a "four-leaved clover bringing fortune"; the four leaves are "stable housing", "creation of jobs", "networking and support" and "co-existence". If one leaf is missing, it is not a "fortune clover". We believe "stable housing" is the most significant leaf.
Remodeling flophouses in Kamagasaki, Osaka [Osaka]
Asahi Newspaper, morning edition, Aug 26, 2000 (pg. 023, opinion 1)
In Kamagasaki (Airin District) in the Nishinari Ward of Osaka City, known as laborer's town, about 100 aged rough sleepers moved into the apartments remodeled from flophouses. All of them were accepted as welfare recipients this summer. Upcoming September, one more remodeled apartment building having the similar capacity will open. Osaka City does not allow those who receive welfare to live in flophouses; however, if owners remodel their flophouse as above, there will be ways for rough sleepers to "spend their lives on Tatami mat". This is also the result of the citizens movement that seeks ways to support rough sleepers. (Editor, Takamichi Masai)
No job at all
"I'm still all right is too late. Get welfare before you fall" --this is the title of flyers published by the NPO, Kamagasaki Shien Kiko (Kamagasaki Supporting Organization, KSK). In the flyer, the organization insists, "Only if you move into an apartment, can you receive housing, welfare without any difficult procedure"; they call on the aged (65 years-old and over) to apply for a lease in those remodeled lodging houses.
Shigeo Matsushige, secretary general of Kamagasaki Shien Kiko, said, "it's difficult for the aged to find a job even in Kamagasaki, a well-known yoseba. We'd better think of obtaining welfare support for the aged and giving younger people more opportunities to work."
According to the survey by KSK, one out of four registered for special employment; about half are rough sleepers; about 60% are willing to receive housing welfare (the total registered population numbers 2,815). The jobless situation was further revealed by the survey done by the Living Care Center that is located in the office of the social welfare corporation "Jikyo kan" and that provides rough sleepers food and a place to stay for a week. 70% out of approximately 1,800 people who used their facility for the first time were rough sleepers and only one out of four among them said, "I think I can get a job". Tentative users also repeat rough sleeping.
What energized Mr. Matsushige was that several welfare apartments were remodeled from cheap lodging houses. In the middle of June, the first welfare apartment, "Appreciate" was opened (6 floor steel skeleton building, managed by Mr. Kazuhide Yamada). Upcoming in September, a second welfare apartment called "Senior House Hidamari", located near the first one, will open (same structure, managed by Ms. Yasuko Miyaji).
Two months after the opening of "Appreciate" about 100 rooms (each room is smaller than 5sqm) were filled with rough sleepers over 65 years-old who were also welfare recipients. The one managed by Ms. Miyaji is similar in size and will accept applicants.
Both welfare apartments equip the shared living room by breaking down walls on the first floor; floor gaps are also lessened and shared kitchen spaces are widened. Staff has been trained consultation about living and residential care. Ms. Miyaji said, "I want to take advantage of this occasion and improve the living condition even a little. Many people feel lonesome, so I want to pay attention to after care too".
Encourage to move in at parks
The managers gathered the resident-will-be rough sleepers through visiting parks in the city with staff, local NPOs, and volunteers. "Get out from rough sleeping". "Let's spend life on a tatami-mat". Distributing flyers with those words, they encourage rough sleepers to move into the welfare apartments and told them that there is "no need for a security deposit and guarantee".
The total capacity of flophouses in Kamagasaki reached to 20,000; Unlike Yokohama City and the Metropolis of Tokyo, Osaka City does not accept housing welfare when an applicant lives in a flophouse. The Official reason is that "it is not a house but an inn", but the government admits welfare in cases where there is a report of business closing.
The problem is that many flophouse owners just change the signboards into apartments without enough of a support system. At the same time, we cannot leave rough sleepers as they are now.
Settling in the community
It is the "Kamagasaki Community Regeneration Forum (KCRF)" who is challenging this issue. The organization consists of NPOs and volunteers and was established last fall. (Mr. Sen Arimura is secretary general of the organization; he is a staff of the Nishinari Labor Welfare Center and also a cartoonist.)
Kamagasaki's function as "yoseba" is decreasing because of diminishing day laborers in the construction industry and because jobless aged laborers are forced to go on rough sleeping. KCRF insists that we need to change a "drifting community" for young laborers into a "stable community" especially for the aged; they prioritized the housing issue for the aged.
"If rough sleepers can't progress from rough sleeping directly to lifelong housing, we should appeal for the improvement and utilization of flophouses," said Mr. Arimura. KCRF is seeking realistic ways to improve the community environment through many workshops.
This is expressed as the "ladder of housing" --stepping up one by one to improve the housing environment. Mr. Yamada who participated in the KCRF agreed to this idea and made the decision to remodel his lodging house.
If housing welfare becomes concentrated in one place, will community activities decrease? It is said the above-like situation is partially appearing in Yokohama City and other places. However, Mr. Arimura and others said, "do not look only at the rough sleepers situation. How we are changing the whole community system is more important."
Remodeled flophouses can be changed into adult day care facilities on nursing care insurance. Rough sleepers can be trained to be licensed helpers. Remodeling can provide carpentry jobs. A variety of ideas emerged and are going to be implemented. On the side of the government, community activities like the above can be supported; for example, the government can subsidize flophouse remodeling. Kamagasaki has the potential and the resources to make it happen.
List of Supportive Houses
- Mansion Appreciate
- Senior House Hidamari
- Welfare Mansion Ohana
- Mansion Friend
- Mansion Innocence
- Mansion Cosumo
- Supportive House Izumi-so