Non-Profit Organization : MOYAI
〈MOYAI〉assists needy people who are re-starting a new life, aiming to become self-reliant.
Being economically poor, and being isolated in human relations — these are the two common problems the poor and needy, such as home-less people, ex-homeless, recipients of daily life security service, domestic violence victims, disabled people have to face up. We aim at doing away their socially isolating state by helping them to be inter-communicating. Thus reconstructing their human relations, we support them so that they can live in their local community without anxiety. Also we offer them opportunities to learn about various social s ystems which will help them getting out of the state of economical poverty, with the cooperation of specialists from various businesses and corporations.
To assist and accompany the people who are starting again for a new life, and to consolidate together the basis of the new life “in order that a person may become more human”; this is the guideline of our activities, and our policy.
〈MOYAI〉: Tying boats together (working together side by side)
〈MOYAI〉promotes and extends the following activities, with mutual assistance among the concerned people themselves as the axis of each, and valuing the human relationships among them.
For starting a New Life
ASSISTANCE for MOVING INTO AN APARTMENT ACTIVITY
Consultation towards independence : For a homeless person who starts an independent life,〈MOYAI〉regularly accepts consultations about supplying the“rentai hoshonin” guarantors needed for renting an apartment. We support the person to return to the local community.
After moving into an apartment
DAILY LIFE CONSULTATION & SUPPORT ACTIVITY
After-care Inquiries: Four times a year we make inquiries about safety by mail, and if necessary visit the person at the apartment.
Moyai Hotline: Every Tuesday and Friday, “Moyai Hot-line” is open, and in connection with some specialists, we respond to various consultations about problems after moving into apartments.
Legal Affairs: Consultations on debts, lease of immovable property, etc.
Social Welfare: Consultations about the daily life security service,public housing, nursing care, pension, taxes etc.
Labor: Consultations about wage, accidents, occupational diseases etc.
Medical Care: Consultations concerning mental and physical problems
Supporting Application for Daily Life Security Service ( Seikatsu Hogo) :We support the application for Daily Life Security Service to the Welfare Office Supplying Livelihood Assistance Materials: In emergency, according to necessity,we supply rice and other materials to support livelihood.
For the peace of mind
EXCHANGE PROMOTING ACTIVITY
Mutual Aid Society (Gojo Kai): To prevent isolation after moving into apartments, we prepare sites for the Gojo-Kai members (those who have been assisted by our housing service etc.) to get together and interact. The axis of this movement is called Mutual Aid Society “Moyai Musubi no Kai”(Moyai Tie Society). We hold exchange gatherings about once a month in meeting halls of public housings, and also make plans for movies, trips together, and other recreational gatherings.
Seminars by Specialists: We hold seminars by specialists such as doctors, social workers, and lawyers about once a month, so as to give necessary information for overcome various difficulties of daily life, and also to offer opportunities for consultations about problems.
For submitting precise proposals to Administration
Visits to the related institutions: We visit the related institutions for the Homeless in Tokyo, hold friendly interviews with the people accommodated there, to investigate and grasp their actual situations.
Proposals to the Administration: As the result of such investigations, we submit proposals to the Administration about some defective or lacking parts, from the standpoint of the accommodated people.
For obtaining the understanding of the society
PUBLIC RELATIONS & AWARENESS-RAISING ACTIVITY
Moyai News: We publish a newsletter called “Moyai News” 4 times a year, so as to deepen the understanding of the society towards the people in the state of homeless, and at the same time to spread information about the activities of Moyai.
Lectures: We give lectures at universities etc. and are eager to promote awareness-raising activities.
〈MOYAI〉is an NPO Corporation consisting of many volunteers who participate in this movement of their own accord, and whose password is “to make a society where all the people can live free from care.”
OUTLINE OF ORGANIZATION
The regular members (annual membership fee ¥10,000 ) meet once a year and decide the activity policy and personnel affairs.
Board of Trustees
Following the decisions of the General Meeting, trustee members make plans and promote the extension of concrete activities.
Chairperson: Tsuyoshi Inaba
Auditor: Tetsuo Iwata
The secretariat is in charge of entire practical business, accounting, and coordination of all the activities.
Advisory Group of Specialists
This group consists of voluntary lawyers, social workers, doctors etc. They undertake the consultancy work according to their specialized area, and give study sessions etc.
The organizations and groups that cooperate or tied up with〈MOYAI〉.
Together we construct a more enriched system of support by our diversified relationship, each group keeping its own characteristics.
Mutual Aid Society Members
Mutual Aid Society “Moyai-Musubi no Kai” welcomes those who pay 1,200 yen per year membership fee.
These are the members who financially support the activities of〈MOYAI〉. (Membership fee: ¥5,000 a share per year.)
* The “MOYAI NEWS” will be sent four times a year
NPO Corporation Independent Life Support Center〈MOYAI〉
A leg up over the guarantor hurdle
Asahi Evening News (Aug.3, 2001)
Tsuneyoshi Hamasaki never dreamed that he could return to what he once considered his own place, albeit an old and small one.
When he was laid off from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market after 23 years to the job, the 77-year-old, with no family left to support him, found himself out on the street.
After going on welfare, he spent more than a yrat looking for an apartment, while sleeping on the streets of the Tsukiji district in Chuo Ward. But because he had no guarantor, each of the eight real estate agencies he visited refused to serve him, despite the fact his welfare payments were sufficient for the rent.
Hamasaki is one of the first 10 people-including homeless people and a victim of domestic violence- to turn to the guarantor service introduced in May by Life Support Center Moyai. By introducing guarantors and providing persistent aftercare, the volunteer group seeks to establish a community network for welfare recipients the homeless, victims of domestic violence, foreign laborers, the disabled and other people living inpoverty.
Unlike other guarantor services, however, Moyai continues to help its clients after they are settled in apartments, paying them monthly visits. It also plans to offer free professional consultations on legal, medical, social and labor issues.
“Poverty is not only caused by lack of money. People living under the poverty line have no community to fall back on.” says Makoto Yuasa, a Life Support Center representative.
Working with the homeless in the Shibuya district, he has seen many of them leave the streets for more conformable places, but eventually return to their familiar community.
The center’s main goal is to establish a network that allow its clients to help each other, rather than simply receiving support.
It also encourages its clients to join a group -currently consisting of 50 members-of people in a similar situation who meet each month. The 100-yen monthly membership fee goes toward publishng a newsletters and other future activities.
Some of the group members last Saturday visited eight former homeless people on welfare who eventually found apartment.
Kawasaki and Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward also began providing guarantor services last year for senior citizens, foreing ewsidents and the disabled. People wishing to use the service in Kawasaki or Setagaya however, must have been residents for up to two years previously.
“It is great that volunteer groups started such service,”says an official at the Kawasaki City Office’s Housing Maintenance Section. Its Housing Grantor System currently serves 48 households.
Section officials are busy taking care of funeral arrangements for two such residents who recently died, as well as clearing away their furniture.
“You don’t call it a grantor service if you only provide daily care. The question is how they can manage troubles that arise, since there are numerous risks involved in (being a guarantor),”the official says.
Life Support Center has received 1 million yen in donations from supporters, including collage professors Diet members and the general public. The money will be used to cover any overdue rent or damages. The clients, for their part, also pay an 8,000 yen fee.
During two months following May, the center found five guarantors for 10 tenants and received no complaints from landlords. But center staff says at least 3 million yen will be needed to be prepared for any foreseeable emergencies or risk.
According to a survey conducted last spring by Japan Property Management Association, 85 percent of 171 property management companies said they saw a need for governments or other groups to help them when their elderly tenants fall sick.
The homeless are not the only people living under the poverty line who have a great need of guarantors and extended care.
Chieko Nishioka of the Saalaa women’s shelter in Kanagawa Prefecture has agonized over the issue with victims of domestic violence.
“The problem is very serious. We have dealt with so many cases where the women could in no way find a guarantor,”Nishioka says. Saalaa currently houses four families, all of them foreign women with children. Women who are hiding from abusive husbands in a foreign country don’t have relatives and cannot ask friends to act as guarantors while concealing their where-abouts.
Nishioka recalls three shelter residents who sought help from a commercial guarantor service, but they failed the screening. The company never revealed why they were refused.
Real estate agencies and landlords often hesitate to rent rooms to senior citizens or foreigners, according to the property management association’s survey. Of 169 companies surveyed, 96 percent said they refuse to rent rooms to people who have no guarantor, and 45 percent said they reject foreign applicants.
In many cases, volunteers at support groups end up offering to act as guarantors themselves.
Jiro Shibuya and other members of the 119 Network for Foreigners in Saitama have agreed to become guarantors, making them ultimately responsible if a tenant fails to pay rent or caused damage.
“It’s rather miraculous that we have never had any trouble. It is like walking in a tightrope.” Shibuya says. He is concerned the group’s 10 members will not be able to be so generous if the number of tenants increases. “This has long been an issue.”
Life Support Center wants to get the government to help, and is applying for nonprofit status.
“We’d like to treat poverty as a widespread national problem, and expand our service,”Yuasa says.”If the government decides to intervene, we hope to not just hand it over, but stay with it to tackle newly raised issues in cooperation with the government. That way we could better serve people in need.”
And any benefit for the voluntary guarantors? There is nothing in it for them, except the smiles shining back at them, Yuasa says.
Life Support Center Moyai’s symposium is to start at 2 p.m. on Aug.4 at Osanaki Iesu-kai(Nicolas Barre Convent) near JR Yotsuya Station. Five panelists, including Nishioka and Shibuya, will bring to the symposium their expertise in mental, illness, domestic violence, homelessness and foreign labor, and discuss problems in their fields.
Donations can be made to post office account 00160-7-37247; in the name of Jiritsu Seikatsu Support Center Moyai, for more information, call 03-3266-5744.
Interviewed by Geoff Read
Representative of MOYAI Support Center
I was born in Hiroshima. My mother is a ‘Hibakusha’, which means she is a survivor of the atomic bomb. Since I was very small I was told about the tragedy of the atomic bomb by my mother and other members of the family and at school. As a result I grew up with a strong belief that nobody should be killed for any reason. When I was a university student I became involved in the anti-war movement which at that time was against the first Gulf War in 1991.
I was also involved in many other movements, including supporting migrant workers. There was a youth and student movement engaging in many activities. Takeshi Mitsu was one of the leaders of the movement. We always called him ‘Firestarter,’ because He started many movents. When one began to go well, he moved on to something else.
In 1994 the first eviction of homeless people by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government happened. Mitsu said to us ‘It’s a big problem, we should go.’ But some of the members including me were worried, because we felt that there were so many homeless people in Shinjuku that we did not have the ability to support them properly. But he said ‘Anyway, I want to do something to protest against the eviction,’ so he went into the homeless shelter village and talked with the homeless people about doing something to help them.
He said to us that we could do something together with the homeless themselves to protest the eviction. So we started our activities in Shinjuku. That was spring 1994. Shinjuku Renrakukai was set up that August. The organisation consisted of homeless people themselves, our group, (including Mitsu and myself) and some activists from the Sanya area’s Day Labourer Union. At first we were separate, but then we joined together.
There were two main purposes of our activity. One was to stop the eviction, and the other was to enable people to survive on the streets. Our slogan is based on what homeless people often say to each other: ‘We are ‘Nakama” which means ‘We are friends in the same situation.’ Our slogan is ‘Protect Nakamas’ lives with the power of Nakamas.’
How to survive the winter is very important. We call this activity ‘Ettou Toso’, which means ‘The winter struggle.’ The first winter struggle began in December 1994. We did this through night patrols, distributing blankets, and a food service. Many homeless people joined with us. In the summer before we had organised the first homeless people’s demonstration in Japan.
Before the winter I was involved, but not at the centre. Then during the winter struggle I saw many homeless people helping each other even though they were in a bad situation themselves. I was very moved by this: hamata. I felt ‘Ah. This is the place for me to do something.’
Sadly, the next year, in March 1995, Mitsu was killed in an accident. His motorbike collided with a taxi. Many people were shocked, including me of course. We talked about how to make up for the hole that he left. He was involved in homeless support for only one year, but he attracted many homeless people to the work, so many homeless people were also shocked and depressed. At that time I felt very strange feelings. I felt I had been somehow told ‘It is your turn now.’ I accepted my fate!
I had joined different activities before but I felt that I had finally found my life’s work. But compared with Mitsu….I am a different kind of person. He was a charismatic leader. I am a quiet person, so I don’t attract people in the same way. Sometimes people expected me to fill Mitsu’s role, which was tough for me. So I changed my thinking, I realised that I am different from him. I do things the way that I do them…and I can live longer, and longer is better. I said to Mitsu’s wife ‘I want to achieve what he did in one year, but I need ten years to achieve the same thing.’…but this kind of comparison is useless, because each person has their own way in society.
In 1996 there was an eviction at Shinjuku Station. The local government tried to keep it secret so I did the opposite and let the people interested in it know. We contacted newspapers, television and independent video journalists. We lost the battle of keeping people in the station, but most people who saw the reports were on our side, so we won the war. The local government was criticized. After that government policy changed,very slowly but steadily. We always said the eviction was not only bad but also useful in a way, because now the government accepted our ideas. That was a big turning point.
We have also negotiated with parliament members. We demonstrated many times, so two years ago the Homeless Independence Support Act was passed in parliament. It made it clear that central government should be responsible for policies supporting homeless people…so that they can get a roof and jobs. ‘A roof and jobs’ is another of our slogans.
Three years ago I set up another organisation with my friends called the Moyai Support Centre. ‘Moyai’ is an old Japanese word originally used by sailors. It means to tie ships together with a rope to protect them in a storm. This organisation has a similar role for people. Moyai supports the people who try to live in apartments. For example one of the activities is to be guarantor for the house rent. Without a guarantor people cannot get accommodation. Even after being housed they have many kinds of difficulties, like unemployment. They may be fired easily, especially if they have mental health problems. We keep in touch with them through consultations and visits and we organise a meeting of ex-homeless people where they can make friends and sometimes we go hiking with them and so on.
Both practical things like jobs and social things like bonds with each other are important. Sometimes it is very ironic. One man, when he lived in a tent in a park had many friends and they helped each other, but after he left the park and entered an apartment he felt very lonely and started drinking more alcohol. Sometimes we visit such people and some of them say ‘I haven’t talked with anyone for a week.’
In Japan the social welfare system is poor, but human relationships are also becoming poor, especially in big cities like Tokyo. On the streets and in the park I have seen many people supporting each other. That is our model. What is important is how to develop such a model in organisational terms. For example our Sunday food service was originally for homeless people, but now it is not only for homeless people, but also for people who join with the activity. Many ex-homeless people still join us, so it is also a place for them. The important thing is whether the people who come there can feel ‘Oh, this is my place.’
The overall situation is becoming more complicated. 10 years ago most of the homeless people were day-labourers, construction workers. Now people who have worked at different kinds of jobs became homeless. Some of them are young people. Some have mental health problems. Now the homeless issue is connected with many different issues, including debt, alcohol addiction and mental health.
There are two aspects: a roof and job; and social relationships. I want the situation to change so that people can have both. I think the government should prepare more accommodation, but there should be different forms of help too. Some people simply need cheaper rent for their flat because in other ways they can look after themselves and earn a living. Some people who are not good at communicating with others, or who are not good at using money need help with that. Small group homes with support workers would be useful for them.
How people think of homeless people has to change. People should accept each homeless person as a member of the same society. The present situation is very tragic. Many people hate homeless people so many are against the government’s plan to build accommodation for homeless people in their area. But the number of homeless is still increasing.
At the moment Prime Minister Koizumi is very popular. He says that we have to reform the social structure of Japan, make it more efficient and cut down on the welfare budget. That means that society is becoming more and more divided between upper and lower classes, rich and poor people. It is very depressing.
The present homeless situation in Japan is like a room without a floor. Society must have a floor, a safety net for poor people, but now many people are forced to sleep rough and some of them die. We want to make a floor.
The first step is to find somewhere that is not in the park or on the street. Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently planning policy. They say they are going to provide flats and rooms for two thousand people and that they will give part-time jobs to the people in this accommodation. I want to help this plan to be more successful and more suitable for homeless people.
In some ways the government plans are expensive but inefficient. The basic idea is right because they are not building big facilities, they are preparing rooms… but there must be some support for people in these flats, otherwise people can become isolated from any social relationships.
In 1995 after the Kobe earthquake the government built many houses for the survivors, but ‘kodoku shi’ (death by solitude) was common. Many became addicted to alcohol and died alone and nobody new about their death for weeks. This kind of thing could happen if homeless people are housed in isolation. We know homeless people well, so we can provide this kind of support.
In Shinjuku and Toyama parks there are homeless villages where they support each other. This kind of relationship should be maintained even after they enter the flats. If possible they should enter shared accommodation.
It is very hard to think beyond this about big ideal solutions. I have been forced to become more realistic. I believe that we can change the situation, but it has to be slowly, gradually, steadily.
There are two important things in being an activist. One is to change the situation.: “I want to face each person’s Jitsuzon.” (The reality of their individual existence.) Sometimes people who try to change the situation ignore what each person is thinking about. They become too political and think that what each person thinks is not important. It is a kind of trap I think. It may be difficult to esteem both,but we have to do it.