Japan: Delivering Heaters to Evacuees Living in Government-Subsidized Housing

What is “government-subsidized housing”?
Numerous houses were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. The total numbers of houses that have been categorized as “fully destroyed” and “partially destroyed” are 120,000 and 200,000 respectively in the three most severely affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. For those who had lost their places to live, 50,000 units of temporary public housing were constructed in these prefectures. On the other hand, approximately 50,000 households, the same number as those living in temporary public housing, are living in what is called “government-subsidized housing.” This temporary housing arrangement means that the evacuees individually rent houses or apartments on their own with partial subsidy from the government.

At temporary public housing units, many evacuees live in the same complex, which helps the government to grasp its up-to-date conditions and situations. Therefore, it is relatively easier to conduct distribution of relief items, and the residents socialize among one another quite often. Conversely, government-subsidized housing units are dispersed, causing the residents to face challenges such as being left out of disaster relief from the government and NGOs or their tendency to live in isolation.

In response, 8 NGOs including AAR JAPAN are engaged in a distribution project to deliver heating equipment to a total of 26,000 households living in government-subsidized housing in Miyagi Prefecture. AAR JAPAN took charge of 18 municipalities including Sendai City and is carrying out the heater delivery to a total of 9,000 households. As of January 20th, 2012, AAR JAPAN has completed distribution in 14 municipalities. Among the recipients, there were some who only had a kotatsu (a table with an electric heater covered by a blanket) to keep themselves warm during the harsh winter that had long arrived in Tohoku, while the government and other organizations had already delivered heating equipment to evacuees at temporary public housing.

Municipalities of which AAR JAPAN is in charge:
Sendai City, Shibata Town, Matsushima Town, Misato Town, Wakuya Town, Kami Town, Marumori Town, Murata Town, Kawasaki Town, Kurihara City, Zao Town, Shichikashuku Town, Ogawara Town, Rifu Town, Taiwa Town, Osato Town, Tomiya Town, Ohira Village

To Keep the Elderly Warm, Who are Living in an Unfamiliar Environment
On December 20th, AAR JAPAN delivered a heater to Ms. Kiyoko SAYAMA, 80 years old, who lives in a “government-subsidized” housing in Murata Town, Miyagi Prefecture. The earthquake caused the roof tiles to fall and the floor to collapse, severely damaging her house. Despite its uninhabitable condition, however, her house could not even be certified as “partially destroyed,” which disqualified her from receiving subsidy for repair work. Demolishing the building would cost her a few million yen, which Ms. SAYAMA living on a pension cannot afford.

December 20th, 2011- Ms. Kiyoko SAYAMA (80 years old) in Tamura Town, Miyagi Prefecture. She is living alone in a government-subsidized house. At right, Sayako NOGIWA, AAR JAPAN’s Tohoku Office Representative.

Eventually, Ms. SAYAMA moved to an employment promotion housing unit in the same town last April. When AAR JAPAN staff visited her, she expressed various concerns such as her difficulty in walking, unfavorable health condition, and the fact that she would have to move out of the current accommodation in two years. The only heating equipment she had prior to AAR JAPAN’s delivery was a single kotatsu. The heater AAR JAPN delivered will not dissolve all of her concerns, but we cannot help but to hope that she is at least capable of enduring the winter without having to worry about being cold or getting sick. AAR JAPAN will continue its activities in the Tohoku region to support those who tend to be left out from other organizations’ relief aid.

December 22nd, 2011- Ms. TAKADA (right) in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture. Her house was located along the coast where nothing remains after the tsunami. “As it gets colder and our air conditioner not functioning well, this heater will really help.” At left, Kentaro KOSUGE from AAR JAPAN’s Sendai Office.

December 16th, 2011- Mr. and Mrs. KUMAGAYA in Taiwa Town, Miyagi Prefecture. “The heater we were using is very old and needed repair. We are very grateful for this heater delivery.” 

*This activity was realized thanks to grants from AmeriCares and International Rescue Committee in addition to your generous donations. 

Makoto EBINA, AAR JAPAN Sendai Office
After working at an IT company for 5 years, EBINA engaged in volunteer activities in the disaster-affected areas in the Tohoku region. He joined AAR JAPAN’s Sendai Office in June, 2011. (Born in Aomori Prefecture.)