[Hpn] Homeless man lends hand and hope to others on street;Japan;7/6/01

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Sat, 07 Jul 2001 13:15:00 -0400


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-------Forwarded article-------

Friday, July 6, 2001
Asahi Shimbun <http://www.asahi.com/english/english.html>
[Japan]
Homeless man lends hand and hope to others on street
<http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0706/asahi070607.html>

The Asahi Shimbun
July 6, 2001

Toshio Uchida promptly shows up at Toshima Ward
Office in Tokyo every day at 8:30 a.m.. He sits in the
first-floor lobby where visitors can watch TV and waits for
homeless people to seek his advice.

They visit Uchida for various reasons. Some say they are
sick, while others seek food and clothes but don't know
how to obtain such things. On busy days, Uchida helps
five to six people at the office.

In the afternoons, Uchida packs his bag with antipyretics,
stomach pills and other medicine provided by the ward
and goes to the parks where many homeless people live.

After making the rounds, he goes to his home: a park near
a towering skyscraper.

Uchida himself is homeless-by choice.

He used to own and operate a beauty shop, and lived
comfortably with his wife, children and grandchildren.

When he suddenly told his family about his desire to
become a homeless man, they cried and desperately tried
to stop him.

He refuses to fully explain why he opted for such a
lifestyle, saying only, ``I was always worried about
homeless people when I was walking down the street.''

Other homeless people at the park ask Uchida why he
chose to live in such a place. He answers them with a
laugh.

But he explains the grim story that prompted him to start
helping other people like him.

In the autumn of 1998-about six months after he decided
to become homeless-Uchida found a homeless man dead
on a park bench in a busy downtown district.

Uchida says he cannot forget the face of the dead man.

``He looked so deeply mortified and grievous,'' Uchida
said, adding, ``I thought, `Why did he have to die like
this?'''

Uchida went to a library and read books on welfare
benefits. He began consulting other homeless people and
thought, ``The ward office is where they can ask for help,
so it is best to be there.''

Since then, Uchida has used the ward office lobby as his
base. He is not employed by the ward, but government
officials don't seem to mind his presence.

``Some homeless people don't even know they can receive
dry bread and clothes at the ward office,'' Uchida said.

Underscoring his visitors' bleak living conditions, Uchida
says 10 homeless people died last year in the Ikebukuro
area alone.

``Homeless people look older than their age because they
have to lead such a severe life,'' Uchida says. ``They age
three times faster than those who lead a normal life.''

His wife sometimes visits the park to see how he is doing,
but she no longer asks him to come home.

``She's probably had enough,'' Uchida said. ``But it's good
for me the way it is now, rather than being called
`grandpa.'''

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA



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