[Hpn] not just a local problem...

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Wed, 06 Sep 2000 02:28:02 -0700


From: Steve Zeltzer <lvpsf@igc.org>
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 00 19:55:21 -0800
Subject: Osaka Homeless Face Ruthless Attacks


http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news03.html
Saturday, September 2, 2000

             Osaka homeless face ruthless attacks

             By Takuji Nakao
             Mainichi Shimbun

             Osaka's growing legions of
             homeless are finding the
             city's streets anything but
             hospitable as increasingly
             vicious attacks are
             unleashed on them.

             The experience of one
             man, 59, was just a more
             extreme example of the
             trend.

             The cardboard box citizen
             was woken by an oily
             smell assaulting his
             nostrils one night in June.
             Then he started to get hot.
             He woke up in a hurry
             and discovered that his cardboard box home was on fire. He
quickly threw it onto the
             road and out of harm's way.

             "It's a bit much, isn't it? Setting it on fire? It makes me
mad," he says.

             Other homeless people have not been as lucky as him.

             A 67-year-old homeless man was beaten to death in July by a
group of four kids
             because, as one said, they "wanted to try out a fighting
game for real."

             His death prompted a group dedicated to helping the homeless
to start patrolling
             Osaka's streets to prevent similar attacks.

             During the day, the streets of the Nipponbashi district in
Osaka's Naniwa-ku are nearly
             always packed with shoppers at electronics shops. At nights,
they're quiet.

             As the members of the Nojukusha Network do their rounds in
Nipponbashi, a
             58-year-old man surrounded by cardboard boxes and preparing
to sleep greets them. He
             tells them that someone recently threw firecrackers at him.

             Early on the morning of Aug. 12, a couple of teens riding
along on a bicycle drove up to
             the cardboard box city set up by the homeless and set off a
dozen fireworks aimed at
             the vagrants' village.

             The 58-year-old escaped injury in the attack. Another
homeless man yelled at the teens
             to stop, but they merely ignored him and rode away.

             In the past, the homeless man who talked with the network
members says he's been
             shot with pellets fired from an airgun and had eggs thrown
at him. He says he would
             need to use both hands to hold the arsenal of pellets that
have been fired at him over
             the past 12 months.

             Once, he caught one of a group of three kids who had
bombarded the boxes of the
             homeless with fireworks. Calm reason failed to make a dent
in his prejudice.

             " 'It's you guys' fault,' " the man recalls the boy saying
to him, " 'we do it 'cause you all
             sleep [on the streets].' "

             "We don't do it because we like it," the man says. "We've
got no money, and we can't
             get into even cheap hotels. But we're wasting our time
trying to get kids to understand.
             Adults have gotta look at what's happening. I can't forgive
some of those guys walking
             around wearing ties who will throw a lit cigarette at us
without giving it a second
             thought."

             Network members try to balance the ledger of consideration
with patrols every
             weekend and also produce a newsletter that they hand out to
the homeless people they
             meet. One of the homeless men who read about the deadly
attack in July couldn't
             believe it.

             "They beat him so hard his guts poured out? ... That doesn't
even happen in boxing.
             We're being treated like stones," he says.

             Some 300 to 400 homeless inhabit the Nipponbashi area
patrolled by the network.

             Network members say that from March to July this year, they
alone have counted 44
             cases of violence against the homeless, including attacks
with fireworks, airguns and
             arson cases.

             Among the injuries incurred have been one person who
required hospitalization after
             their legs were bashed with a wooden staff and another who
sustained burns trying to
             extinguish a cardboard box that had been set on fire.




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