This Japanese Charity Turns Empty Homes into Housing for Single Mothers

Little Ones combat poverty and stigmas against single mothers by providing housing and living support.


(milatas /

Single-parent families can raise happy well-adjusted children with all the love of two-parent families. Sometimes, however, they need a little help and that's where organizations like Little Ones in Tokyo, Japan come in. This nonprofit that was established in 2010 helps single moms – and dads – find housing, employment, childcare, and a general support structure.

For various reasons, most single parents find it very difficult to rent a home. At the same time, Japan has over 9 million abandoned buildings due to a decline in population.

Rents in Japan are also very high – especially in Tokyo – so many single-income families have a hard time affording housing. According to Little Ones, the rate of poverty among single mothers is around 50 percent and Japan has the highest rate of poverty for these families of all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Little Ones saw the abandoned homes – many of which have fallen into disrepair – as a way to provide affordable housing for single mothers and fathers. How this works is really ingenious. The organization finds homes that are vacant and then applies to the government for grants to rehabilitate them. The homes are then rented out at discounted rates. The parents do not have to put down a deposit or have a guarantor as is mandatory for renting an apartment in Japan.

Since 2013, over 200 single mothers have been housed by Little Ones, mostly in Tokyo, Osaka, and Chiba, according to World Habitat. The organization has now gained international recognition by winning a top honor at the 2018 World Habitat Awards. But with over one million single-parent households, what has been accomplished so far is still a small step toward what is actually needed.

“Little Ones is an ingenious project that addresses the stigmatization and discrimination that single mothers experience in access to housing,” Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing told Positive News. Farha said that she hoped the award would encourage all levels of government and society to give single mothers “the support and opportunities they deserve.”

Little Ones is doing great work addressing some of the most urgent needs of single parents in Japan. Pairing single moms and abandoned houses is a win-win for all.

Hopefully, this project can be scaled up so it can help make even more matches.

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