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Lost jobs, business failures increase homeless numbers

Date Posted: 2008-05-16

The number of homeless people in Okinawa is increasing, and local communities and agencies are scrambling to find ways to help those with no place to live.

A new survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shows the number of homeless at 167 in 2007, but already climbing to over 200 in January 2008. A local homeless support group says many of the homeless are mainland immigrants who moved to Okinawa to start businesses or begin second livelihoods that failed.

Local Okinawans classified as homeless have increased, largely due to reductions in the jobs market. Officials say most of the local homeless are single, without families to draw support from.

Naha City is serving as an advisor to the Welfare Section, and investigating actual homeless conditions on the island. At the same time, Naha City has instituted rules on resource garbage collection—collecting aluminum cans for recycling resale—that prohibit homeless from earning any money. The city has ruled only designated vendors may collect and transport the cans.

Other officials are checking homeless to see if they’re healthy, and others are assisting in getting homeless in contact with Public Employment Offices. The ‘Tie Up Society’ is helping homeless people. Yoshimi Minei represents the group, which has purchased a private residence for use by homeless, giving them an address required to file for public benefits.

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