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May 18 2009
Over 5,000 homeless Japanese people sleep in 24-hour internet cafés Over 5,000 homeless people across Japan are thought to sleep in 24-hour internet cafés, according to a Japanese government study.

The "internet café refugees" camp out in private booths, paying an all-night rate of around Yen 5, which often includes free coffee and soft drinks, comics and even showers, making them an affordable refuge, especially in the hottest and coldest months. The Japanese Health and Welfare ministry sent questionnaires to 1,200 internet cafés across Japan and spoke to 1,700 overnight customers at 86 locations in June and July.

Six per cent of respondents said they sleep at least half the week at 24-hour cafés, leading the government to calculate that 5,400 people live this way, though critics believe the actual number is much higher. Many in this growing group are young, with 27 per cent in their 20s and 23 per cent in their 50s. Half were found to be in low-paying, day-hire jobs, stuck in the vicious circle of not having the fixed address needed to obtain a full-time job, but unable to afford a deposit for permanent housing. The government has outlined plans to increase its support for those living in internet cafés, including the provision of dormitories and help with finding work.

Japan has around 18,000 homeless on its streets, according to government figures, with their average age of 58 rising all the time.
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