Japanese shelter turns men away amid typhoon

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The Japanese prime minister has said typhoon shelters “should be open to everyone’’, after two homeless people were turned away during the country’s worst storm in decades.

Typhoon Hagibis brought heavy rain and winds of 225km/h (140mph) to Japan at the weekend, killing 66 people.

But when two homeless men tried to use a shelter in Tokyo, they were turned away as they did not have addresses.

The case has caused huge debate in Japan with not everyone sympathetic.

What happened at the shelter
As Hagibis took hold on Saturday morning, a 64-year-old homeless man went to a primary school, which was being used as an evacuation centre.

The school was in the Taito ward of Tokyo, which includes San’ya, an area historically home to many labourers, and now homeless people.

According to officials who spoke to the, Asahi Shimbun, the man was asked to write his name and address. When he said he had no address, he was turned away.

“I told them that I have an address in Hokkaido [Japan’s northern island, hundreds of miles from Tokyo], but they still denied me entry,” he said.

The man said he instead spent the night under an umbrella beneath the eaves of a building.

“I wanted them to allow me into the facility because the wind was strong and it was raining,” he said.

Another homeless man was turned away later that afternoon.

Reactions
As news spread on social media, there was outrage at the shelter’s decision.

The San’ya Workers’ Welfare Centre, a charity, responded by opening as a shelter on Saturday night.

But others were less sympathetic, suggesting “smelly” or “mentally ill” homeless people should only be allowed into shelters if there was a separate space.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was asked about the case in parliament and said “evacuation centres should let anyone in who has come to evacuate”.

“We will look into the facts and take appropriate measures,” he added.

The Taito ward said it would review its procedures to help people without addresses in the ward.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu