Due to mental and cultural constructs, the homeless population in Tokyo, Japan has not been contained and continues to grow, but there are plans for the implementation of beneficial programs to combat the situation.
The Homeless Population and Available Human Service Programs in Tokyo, Japan
According to research and data, there are currently an estimated of 1,473 homeless in the area which is a drop from last year. An official in the metropolitan government’s social welfare and public health bureau stated that it is believed that the drop is due to Tokyo’s government assistance. However, in some sub-cities such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, the numbers were higher. The research was conducted during the daytime and it is suspected that number of homeless in the city may actually be higher. When it comes to this homeless community, “the vast majority of Japanese homeless are men over the age of 40. There’s a fair amount of age discrimination in Japan’s labor market” (Spacey, 2014).
It is imperative to note that “The Japanese government is not without welfare programs to tackle this social issue. The problem seems to come from a tedious application process (for welfare benefits) that drives beneficiaries away instead of enabling them to exercise their rights” (Tribe, 2015). The Advocacy and Research Center for Homelessness (ARCH) based in Tokyo, is comprised of social workers and researchers who continuously study the issue of homelessness in this country (Osumi, 2016). It is stated that many of this homeless community refuse to accept support from the public “sometimes out of concern that their families will find out about their situation, or because they simply wish to exist without the support of government agencies” (Osumi, 2016). This is especially challenging with those who have mental issues of need medical care. Such programs like “the Doctors of the World, has been providing medical care to vulnerable people in the country through its Tokyo Project. The project with long-term objectives was started to assist the homeless people suffering from mental disorders with the aim of reintegrating them back into the community” (Tribe, 2015).
The normative need, which is a need according to a set standard, of this community is to minimize the amount of homeless throughout the city (Øyen, 2006). This is an understandable standard that the city and the homeless citizens would like to reach. This need may be possible by opening and operating private shelters, having heath care providers on site, and creating jobs for the homeless citizens within the shelter or at other employers within the formal network that the shelter or other human and social services agencies may have.
The expressed need, which is a need that is expressed to have, is confidentiality and autonomy (Øyen, 2006). It has been made very clear that many of the homeless of this city do not wish to be known as homeless with fear of family and friends knowing of their situation. I believe this reason directly correlates with the reason why more homeless are out at night than during the day when the study was conducted. Additionally, this homeless community does not wish to accept help from the supportive government for the same reason and would rather face the situation alone and work through it on their own terms with little to no interference.
The comparative need, which is concerns compared to others who are not in need, is shelter and healthcare (Øyen, 2006). Shelters in Japan are hard to locate and gain entry into, and many refuse free healthcare because of pride. The perceived or felt need, which is a need that people feel, is that the homeless Japanese do require help and would like support and assistance, but have too much pride and would consider doing so shameful because of their culture, values, and beliefs (Øyen, 2006).
This homeless community has needs beyond what is portrayed in the streets of Tokyo. The need that is most important when addressing homelessness is the expressed need. We learn in our text that “all conceptual approaches of problem solving analysis emphasize the need to identify the causes of the problem” (Kettner/ Moroney/ Martin, 2017). We can find out and better understand the cause of a problem through it being expressed by the affected community and or population. By the homeless community expressing how they got into and why they are in their current situation, along with what their priority of needs is to remedy or positively aid the situation, we can better serve them by creating and implementing programs to meet these needs. A popular approach to find out expressed needs through needs assessment is to analyze the use of service.
Unfortunately, services, support, and aid are avoided as much as possible by this community. It is because of this that focus will be redirected to the perceived needs of the homeless in Tokyo. The method of conducting a social survey would be more than beneficial in the homeless community because it collects information directly from the affected community member’s, and focuses on the perceived needs (Kettner, Moroney, and Martin, 2013). This information can tell program planners what the community feels they need, and what they think is available to them. This survey can also provide insight into why the Japanese homeless are not satisfied with the services offered and give way to what we can do to make them more effective and useful. Perhaps the human and social services offered do not line up with the priorities that the homeless community has.
It is important to understand that here in Yokosuka-Tokyo, Japan, many of this homeless community refuse to accept support from the public “sometimes out of concern that their families will find out about their situation, or because they simply wish to exist without the support of government agencies” due to the cultural value of pride (Osumi, 2016). There are multiple government and non-profit agencies that are in place to provide care, aid, and support to this community, but because pride and discretion are major factors in the homeless Japanese utilizing these services.
Some goals and objectives to accomplish would be to effectively gather all information from each agency available to assist this community ranging from social services, government, as well as local businesses and community members. A goal is to make sure that the homeless community is fully aware of the support and aid available to them and through which agencies. Additionally, the goal is to maintain cultural values and note that the discretion of clients who seek out such services is strongly practiced. The programs mission and aim is to improve existing and future programs based off of the expressed and perceived needs of the homeless community. This program design brings about social change in the Tokyo community because homelessness is not an individual issue, it is a community issue. By local citizens spreading the word or posting flyers on the services available, law enforcement picking up homeless citizens and escorting them to shelters, or local business agreeing to hire those that are homeless but willing to work whatever job may be available, this issue can be remedied in time. Because pride is such a major element in this culture, trust and acceptance without judgement has to be created on both sides of the community. Functioning community member have to accept and understand that as a collectivistic culture, members of their society fall on hard times and need help. Homeless community members have to trust that people in their community want to help them without judgement. The Japanese culture is evolving, and so should the mindset.