Tokyo Street Count

What is Tokyo Street Count?

Tokyo Street Count (TSC) is our primary project where we conduct bi-annual counts of people sleeping rough in Tokyo during the night time. It first took place in January 2016 covering just three wards in central Tokyo and with 82 volunteers. However, as it gets more public awareness, the project has grown to cover wider areas and receive more volunteer participation. On the night of the count, volunteers go out to the streets after the last train and count the number of people sleeping rough because it is the time when most rough sleepers start to find shelter for the night. Initiated by ARCH and supported by a number of homelessness organisations as well as many volunteers, TSC is hoped to provide a more realistic picture of rough sleeping in Tokyo based on which more effective strategies can be made.

Why conducting TSC?

In Tokyo, official street counts are conducted during the daytime twice a year – one in summer (August) and the other in winter (January). While these counts are useful to some extent, especially in grasping the size of the less-mobile rough sleeping population with well-established structures such as cardboard shacks, a more realistic and neutral picture of entire rough sleeping would be provided through a night time count. TSC is therefore conducted during the night time around the same time of the year as the official counts and attempts to complement them by providing a night-time snapshot, which hopefully encourages improved policy making and raises public awareness of the actual situation of rough sleeping in Tokyo.

This action is driven by our will to create momentum in Tokyo’s homelessness sector and the society in general in the years leading up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We acknowledge that hosting an international event like the Olympics could trigger hostile attitudes towards rough sleepers, but also a great amount of energy to improve their situation. ARCH is determined to see to the latter, and TSC is one of the key actions towards that goal.

What happens on the night of the count?

Volunteers are asked to arrive at the meeting point (usually a railway station) by 0:30am. After signing in, they are advised of their team and counting area and provided a brief instruction about the count. Each team is made up of 3 to 5 volunteers. Once they finish checking the counting method, area and routes in a group, they inform the staff of their departure and the actual count starts.

The count takes around 2.5 hours from 1am to 3:30am. Each team walk all streets and paths within their counting area and record people who are considered homeless using a counting form and a map. The form asks the location and time, number of individuals sighted, whether they are lying/sitting down or mobile, and the form of rough sleeping such as in a tent or sleeping bag.

After the count, volunteers come back to the designated place (usually 24hr restaurant) by 4am at the latest and finalise their count results. We also ask them to fill a short questionnaire. The whole TSC program ends when the first trains leave around 4:30am.

What are the findings of TSC?

On average, TSC finds 2.5 to 2.8 times more people sleeping rough during the night time compared to the official​ count conducted during the day. It has also revealed that, during the night time, a larger proportion of rough sleeping population tends to be seen on the streets and in railway stations, in sleeping bags or makeshift cardboard structures. These findings are likely to indicate that daytime counts cannot capture more temporary, mobile form of street homelessness that only becomes visible during the night time.

How are the results and findings of TSC used by ARCH?

We aggregate and analyse the counting data as well as volunteer questionnaire results. Usually, we announce the total number of rough sleepers who have been counted in TSC within a month. In addition to that, we use the final data analysis in our advocacy and research activities and publicise it with our policy recommendations in order to generate desired social impacts.

Find out more

Visit our blog for the latest news about TSC.

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