“I want to be independent, but I worry about my job and income…”
“It would be difficult because I have a handicap and no one I can rely on.”
Aren’t you worried like this?
Many people step on the way to being independent, such as living alone, when starting work after graduation from high school or university.
Although it’s hard to get used to it at first, you gradually find your own rhythm of life while working full-time at a company. Also, you easily would be able to pass the screening for an apartment in the preparation process for your life if you have a stable job and income.
On the contrary, some people struggle to work full-time and get enough income to live alone because of their handicaps in the growing environment or physical and psychological aspects. It’s hard to pass the screening for an apartment without a stable job, and it is often difficult to find work for them.
A certified non-profit organization, NEXTEP, started a sharehouse for those people.
NEXTEP is a certified non-profit organization that provides Type A continuous employment services and support for kids who don’t go to school. A staff, Sasaki-san, is a manager of their sharehouse, Light.
So, in this article, we interviewed him about the reason for starting a sharehouse, the place they want to create it, and the people they want to welcome.
Please read the article if you are one of those who have high motivation for independence but don’t know what to do and have troubles in work and life.
Sasaki-san became staff at a non-profit organization because he wanted to contribute to the local community
– Please introduce yourself.
: Hi, I’m Sasaki. I’m from Hiroshima and have lived in Kumamoto since entering university. Now I work as a staff at a certified non-profit organization, NEXTEP.
Initially, I had a passion for “being involved with projects that contribute to the local community through my job in society,” so it was natural for me to be interested in the activities of non-profit organizations.
So, after graduating from a university, I have kept myself involved with activities by non-profit organizations while working for a primary job. Non-profit organizations are basically for non-profit. It’s possible to achieve a large revenue if it’s operated in combination with some other business, but I could not find such a non-profit organization, at least in Kumamoto.
Despite that, I still wanted to be involved with a non-profit organization, so I somehow ended up at a local non-profit organization and decided to stay (lol).
– Somehow ended up at a local non-profit organization and decided to stay there? (lol)
: And I freeloaded at board members’ houses and spent 5 ~ 6 years. I had that kind of period. I was almost a freeloader.
I moved from one non-profit organization to another until I started working at NEXTEP. I started working as a staff of NEXTEP right before my 30s, and it’s been almost ten years.
– Why did you decide to work at NEXTEP?
: In my 20s, many people looked after me as if they were my parents, and I’m obliged to them.
Since I’m from Hiroshima and don’t have a family here, I feel that I spent my time here as many people have taken care of me.
Of course, I want to give something back to them, but rather than doing so now, I want to provide support and do what I can do best for people in need.
For example, if I can help someone’s daily life and living situation through conversations, I feel it goes around and gives something back to those who looked after me in the end.
– It’s like repaying an obligation. Please tell us the activities of NEXTEP that you belong to now.
: NEXTEP is a group that services kids who don’t go to school, Type A continuous employment, and also we support small kids.
【Activities of NEXTEP (excerpt)】
・STEP – Support for small kids at home
Station of home nursing for small kids, office for home care for small kids, office with support for kids with severe disability, etc. We provide support for kids in need, such as medical equipment and, in detail, building a home nursing station for small kids and a helper station for kids with disability.
・Chokokara – Support for Type A continuous employment
A social work service that provides a job for people with difficulty working at a regular company, such as people with disability and intractable diseases. Introducing positions whose working hour is 4 ~ 8 hours per day for people under 65.
・Field – Support for kids who have not been attending school
Creating opportunities for farm work experience in a field in Koshi-shi for kids who have not been attending school. They plant and harvest vegetables, cook a meal with them for lunch, and eat it together.
The sharehouse Light that I manage is related to Support for Type A continuous employment and for kids who have not been attending school.
– Could you tell us more about Support for Type A continuous employment?
: Support for Type A continuous employment is a welfare service provided to those who have intellectual, physical, or mental disabilities or have intractable diseases that make it difficult for them to work in regular companies.
We introduce people under 65 years old who have difficulty working in regular companies to work with a certain level of support so that they can continuously work. The actual working hours per day are about 4 ~ 8 hours, which is shorter than the typical job. However, since they have an employment contract, they will be paid more than minimum wage.
There is Type B continuous employment support, but it differs from Type A in three ways: age limit, employment contract, and salary.
Type B doesn’t have an age limit, but Type A supports only people under 65. It seems Type A has more limits, but there is no employment contract in Type B, and it pays wages as a reward for the production results. The work in Type B is also mainly light work.
So, in Type B, people can work at their own pace, but it’s hard to earn a lot of money.
On the contrary, in Type A, people work for 4 ~ 8 hours per day, and it is easier for them to get closer to independence because they will be paid a specific salary with an employment contract for that.
NEXTEP provides support for Type A continuous employment. Many of them are 65 years old and work more than 4 hours or some longer.
Mainly we ask them for assistance in cooking and customer service in the cafeteria, as well as work associated with farming and its commercialization.
– For example, do people who live in the sharehouse, Light, get support to find a job?
: If it’s Type A employment, we might be able to provide support.
As of now, we only welcome people to the sharehouse after they have found a job in Type A employment. We have yet to have a case that a person who contacted us about the sharehouse also received employment support.
However, we might be able to introduce jobs as well as places to live in the future. For example, someone who comes to see the sharehouse because they are interested in it might also come to see jobs that they could do in Type A continuous employment. There would be some cases like that in the future.
What is the sharehouse, Light, like?
– What kind of sharehouse is Light like?
: Basically, it’s a place for people working with the support of Type A continuous employment to live.
Some children who have backgrounds that do not allow them to rely on their parents or family or who want to work toward independence.
Children without parents are protected by the system of “living in child welfare institutions” until the age of 18, but they have to leave the institutions when they graduate from high school. Although it is unavoidable, they are suddenly thrown out into society.
But, to be honest, even if you can find a job and make a living at the age of 18, it does not mean you will be able to earn a large amount of money from your starting salary. It is also difficult to live independently and start working when you have no one to rely on.
from work, and your room would be a mess. Saving money is almost impossible. You might not be good at managing money in the first place and need help figuring out what to do about it. Some people would fall into such a situation.
More than anything else, it’s difficult to rent an apartment without relatives. But, still, you have to work and find a place to stay after leaving the institution.
At such times, I think the sharehouse like Light would provide a base and training for them to become independent.
Rent of Light is not expensive, and it’s a safe and comfortable environment since there is an adult as a house manager who they can talk to. I think just starting life in such a place makes it easier to head in a good direction in the days that follow.
– You provide support as one step before independence and living alone.
: As they build their livelihoods in this way, they may gradually gain confidence in their ability to become independent. If their work goes well and their skills grow, their salaries may also increase.
Or even if they are 18 years old and just get a job, they can still save a little money. If they have a goal that they want to get a driver’s license and buy a car and work hard for that, they will feel like they can do it.
Even children, who initially had difficulties becoming independent because of their circumstances, may become adults enough to rent a standard apartment after taking a few steps.
A standard period is about 2 years. We set this as a target period until independence, and within that period, they will gain confidence by managing money and doing household chores and cooking. We want them to use this sharehouse as a place to step up until they reach that state. That is what this place is for.
– I see.
: Also, children working in Type A continuous employment cannot work full-time due to physical and phycological aspects. Their average income is ¥80,000 per month, and it’s hard to live alone with that income.
However, it doesn’t mean they cannot be independent forever. It’s just hard to do so now, and they might be able to earn enough income to live alone as they grow and increase working hours.
I hope this sharehouse functions as a training space for that.
– Sounds great. Are residents in charge of household work, such as cooking?
: Yes, I’m going to put each resident in charge. I will cook for them sometimes (lol).
This is limited to the children who receive the support of Type A continuous employment, but one of their jobs is to be an assistant for cooking at a cafeteria. When we work with a cafeteria, they might be able to share some food.
The basic premise is that they must make it on their own while ensuring minimum nutrition and follow-up. I think we can do that.
The reason for launching the sharehouse, Light, and the meaning of its name
– First of all, why did you start thinking about launching the sharehouse, Light?
: Well, it’s because so many things happened at once, something like that. The most important reason is our desire to provide a better place to support independence.
Among the children who receive the support of Type A continuous employment, we thought some of them could grow toward independence by living far from their parents.
At that time, Shimazu, a Representative of NEXTEP, and I were thinking about a similar thing, and it came up in the conversation.
And we heard about a vacant house when we were looking for a property.
When we asked Koshi Milal Lab, a company that runs a website for information on vacant houses on a local government’s website, through an acquaintance, they told us there was a person whose parents’ home became vacant after their grandmother passed away.
That person’s family was saying, “What should we do with the house?” and “It would be good to utilize the house for some welfare projects.”
Our timing that we were thinking about launching a sharehouse coincidently overlapped with the person’s situation. When we talked about the sharehouse with Koshi Milal Lab, they said, “Let’s move forward since it’s a good project.,” and the project progressed in leaps and bounds.
– I see. What was the origin of the name “Light?”
: I thought it would be nice to have a bright feeling.
The word Light has so many meanings. First, light means “light” (not heavy).
It gives the impression of a lighter or brighter heart, especially when written in katakana. I hope that this sharehouse will become a place where everyone’s feelings are healed, and positive strength will come to life while living here.
The word Light also means “bright.”
When living in the sharehouse, residents will be involved with others who are not their relatives. I think that they can be helped and have their feelings brightened up through talking and discussing with others.
The children who left the nest with their experiences as a springboard will light up and brighten the lives of those around them as they go out into the world and interact with various people.
We named this sharehouse “Light” in the hope that it would be the starting point for the circulation of that brightness.
The idea is to support their livelihood, and they can show others how to live on their own
– In launching the sharehouse, what kind of place do you want it to be?
: Ideally, it will be a place for people who need support from others, such as children who don’t go to school and people who receive support for Type A continuous employment, to show how to live on their own with hope and freedom.
A certain job and income are inevitably essential to go toward a normal life, such as working full-time and renting an apartment. However, it’s a tough challenge for those who don’t attend school and receive employment support.
I hope they use the sharehouse as a time for preparation to reach to a normal life, and we can support them while they are here.
The reason why I started thinking that way is heavily related to NEXTEP’s project of supporting children who don’t go to school.
It’s been almost 17 years since we started providing opportunities of experiencing farming activities for those who don’t go to school in 2005. The children who were in elementary school at the time are now 22 ~ 23 years old as of 2023, and when we actually see them for the first time in years, they tell us that they are actually not working, and some of them have lost touch with us.
Like this, many of them kinda stop growing up when they become adults.
Also, through conversations with the parents and staff who come to NEXTEP’s farming activities, we often hear, “Rather than being able to go to school or not, or knowing routes for going on to higher education in the future, we hope they can live on their own with freedom and hope in the end.”
Inevitably, they need support for jobs/working when they aim for independence. Because of this background, we have built an employment support team at NEXSTEP, but we think we can do more to push them if we can also support their livelihood.
That’s why we want to make it a place that can decently support their livelihood.
– You want to make it a place that will support not only their work but also their livelihood.
: Also, I will keep working as a house manager here, but I can take care of it only two days a week. Sometimes it’s better to be in contact with them for more time than that, and there might be people who can be more involved.
So, it would be good for a person who used to live here or who is in a similar situation to be a house manager and live here, maybe after 5 years from now.
I will support residents as a foster parent in this sharehouse, but I think it would be better to have more adults as a foster parent who they can go talk to. It’s not they can go talk to only one person, but it’s more like, “I think I should ask him/her about this” or “I think I can ask him/her about that.”
The more people they can talk with, the more secure they feel. There would be a person who I can trust, and I would like to rely on the person when that happens.
It would be great if we can pass the torch of a sense of security to each other among residents.
– As the sharehouse continues for many years to come, it seems that Sasaki-san will become a Big Daddy with many children (lol). The number of children you come in contact with will increase more and more.
: Indeed (lol). 10 years from now, I hope it will be like that.
What kind of people does he want in the sharehouse?
– What kind of people would you like to come in the sharehouse, Light?
: Nothing particular. If I had to say, people who want to take a step forward.
We would like to welcome people who want to leave a parents’ house and be independent, and people who want to challenge for living on their own with freedom. However, it’s hard to live alone suddenly in terms of job and income. As I said many times before, Light is a place for that kind of people to get prepared for independence slowly. I would be happy if people with even a little mind of moving forward from where they stand now use the sharehouse.
I think living here in the first place is considerably challenging. Those who have a parents’ home are guaranteed food, clothing, and space to live, even if they have a fight with their family.
It’s challenging to be completely independent all at once, even if they want to take a step forward from that kind of situation.
I hope that people will use our sharehouse in such cases and that they will gain confidence while living here.
– It’s a place for people who want to be independent and challenge themselves will complete their goals here through trial and error. It is not a place to stay forever but a place to leave the nest. That’s how I see it.
: There may be a foster parent-like relationship. This sharehouse would work as their parents’ houses, and they come back. It’s a place to leave the nest as well as a place where they can return anytime.
A place to support their practice for independence. And as a place to show hope
In this article, we interviewed Sasaki-san, who works as a house manager of the sharehouse, Light, and is a staff member at a certified non-profit organization, NEXTEP.
Living alone is not easy because of the contractual aspects, such as work, income, and guarantor, and also because you are responsible for all your personal needs after you start.
Usually, it seems easy once you become independent and find a job, but it looks a plateau from the point of view of those who need assistance.
However, it doesn’t mean a thing people can’t get over all the time. It’s possible to live according to ideal goals and hope, even if it’s slowly, if you find a person or a place like Sasaki-san and NEXTEP.
I felt a kind of unwavering determination from Sasaki-san that he would “take care of people for the rest of his life” as he said someone could become a house manager after graduation or even come to visit the sharehouse occasionally.
Just by finding a place for preparation, Light, people may already be standing on the starting line of hope.
Please contact NEXTEP through their website about their activities and the sharehouse, Light, where Sasaki-san is in charge.