Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

During the bubble economic period, the 1980s, Kamagasaki offered a daily vivid image of over 20,000 workers that gathered every morning around the public Labor Center looking for work. Most of the workers were young at the time and had enough jobs to do. Returning from work they gathered in groups to drink and it was not unusual to view drunken people fighting vigorously here and there in the streets. The impression received was of a town fully alive and a place of strong, not violent, confrontation.
Formerly, mass media reported mainly violent confrontations, due to labor disputes and unjust actions taken by the police, but people liked to live there because it was a town with a strong human flavor. Many still continue working there.
Well into the 90s, daily jobs offered to the 20,000 workers of Kamagasaki diminished drastically to just a few hundred a day and although the number of people lying without a roof outside increased, one could still observe many alive persons there. But, since homeless people showed a significant increase, special legislation to assist their self-reliance was implemented and a big shelter public center was built at Osaka's Castle Park, constituting year after year a very difficult environment that forced many people to go homeless.
It is true that homeless people are now legally protected against unfair eviction practices from public parks, but the issue of employment remains unsolved. Regions like Osaka that are in financial difficulties lack budgets to implement systems of public employment or to impose emergency policies, with the result that the measures taken to increase the numbers of public cleaners to 20 persons a day are nothing but to throw water on thirsty soil. It has become clear that the real solution to the problem is protracted.
In my last visit to Kamagasaki I could realize that the situation there had changed. The cheap lodging places have given way to welfare apartments where senior workers under public welfare aid find lodgment facilities. Offices for the care of old people have been opened and daycare activities have started to function.
All this is a proof that the old time daily workers of Kamagasaki have lost either their jobs, as a result of old age, or have become sick and, recently, the rate of people receiving welfare assistance has greatly increase.
In spite of receiving welfare aid that provides them some security in their poor living, many suffer from sickness or mental diseases and the numbers of those receiving care or food and meal services have increased.
At the same time the economic situation of the town continues changing. In former times, the earnings of daily work were spent in the shops and restaurants around, but now only the day when pensions and welfare aid are received people visit the shops of Kamagasaki. This way, I felt that, as a result of an increase of daily workers that were in need of medical care and of those receiving public welfare, Kamagasaki has, in fact, become a welfare town.
On the other hand, long time activists and first senior workers that have lived there as homeless in recycling or cleaning jobs stress that Kamagasaki continues to be a town of workers. In the past they have been living there together with other workers and, no matter the undergoing changes, as long as people cleaning the streets or doing recycling jobs remain, the town is a workers' town. Kamagasaki is gradually changing, but, without any doubt, workers continue living painfully there.

From December 25 the cold winter season starts in Kamagasaki. All sorts of assistance are welcomed.
For BLANKETS, please get in contact with Kamagasaki Christian Kyoyukai. TEL.06-6647-1035
For WINTER GOODS, please contact Tabiji no Sato. TEL.06-6641-7183
For DONATION MONEY, please contact Kamagasaki Network For Employment. TEL.06-6632-4723
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