A martial arts center in Yokohama, Japan, has been converted into a shelter for homeless ‘net cafe refugees’ following the closure an online cafe in the region because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary space is operated by the local Kanagawa authorities and features Shigeru Ban’s paper partition system, offering privacy and distance to prevent infections.

First reported by Gulf News, these all-night internet and manga comic cafes usually shelter people as they offer couches, computers, comics and shower facilities for people to stay overnight for an affordable price.

It has been estimated that in Tokyo alone, around 4,000 people call these places home. Now that Japan has seen a surge in coronavirus cases, authorities have closed these cafes, and activists now worry that this episode could lead to suicides and more virus-related deaths.

To aid the ‘net cafe refugees’, Shigeru Ban Architects and his team at Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) has installed the emergency shelters made from paper tubes inside the sports center — the same used to help those affected by the Japanese floods and other natural disasters.

Early on his career, the world-renowned Japanese architect started exploring the structural possibilities of the cardboard tube as a building component, testing its stability and durability in the development of temporary constructions.

He discovered that not only was the material strong, but also easy to waterproof and fireproof, making it an affordable, cost-effective option.

The shelter has hosted almost 40 people since opening on April 11.