A petition with more than 50,000 signatures has asked for the Olympic Village to be used as temporary housing ©Getty Images

An online petition calling for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village to be turned into a homeless shelter has been launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Village in Harumi was set to be used at this year's Games but they have now been postponed until next year due to the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Those who the petition aims to help are rough sleepers and those who lost their homes during the pandemic.

Onishi Ren, the chairman of the Independent Living Support Center Moyai, started the campaign which now has more than 52,000 signatures.

"Some people are losing their income or becoming unemployed due to the simultaneous closure of elementary, junior high, and high schools to prevent infections, self-restraint for events, etc, and shortened business hours at retail stores," said Ren.

"In the future, if the time until the end of the infection is prolonged, more people may be in financial distress or may lose their homes."

There are approximately 1,000 homeless people in Tokyo, and a further 4,000 people who "live" in 24-hour internet cafes which have now been forced to close.

The petition urges the Village to be used now that the Games have been delayed until 2021, with the new Opening Ceremony date of July 23.

Ren added: "To tell the truth, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been decided.

"As a result, there is room for temporary use of the Olympic Village, a large-scale accommodation facility that can accommodate more than 17,000 people.

"It is reported that Tokyo is considering this Athlete Village as a temporary place to stay for people with mild illness infected with the new coronavirus.

"It may be used in some buildings and rooms, so please open it as an urgent accommodation for people who have lost their residence or place of residence."

A Tokyo 2020 spokesman told insidethegames they would not be commenting as they had not yet "received a formal request on the matter".

There have been more than 7,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan, resulting in the deaths of 143 people.

The petition can be found here.