A schoolgirl broke down in tears after she was asked by her teacher to make a drawing of her house – because her and her mum are currently homeless.
Seven-year-old Maia Sweeney and her mum were living in the Balearic Islands when the pandemic struck last year and have been stuck in temporary accommodation ever since.
The pair were ‘stranded with nothing’ in Spain for several months before coming home to stay with Emma’s mum but letting agencies ‘won’t touch them with a bargepole’.
43-year-old, Emma, said: “We spent a year with zero income, [my daughter and I] were evicted after seven months, though our landlord was very kind and wiped the debt.
“My work as a music tutor also came to an abrupt halt because of Spain’s strict lockdown.
“We were literally stranded overseas with nothing.”
A stranger from Facebook offered the pair a room in a villa over winter where they stayed for five months until a friend loaned them money to move back to the UK in March of this year.
Emma, who has performed as a singer in nightclubs across the UK and Spain for years, as well as recording sessions for huge dance music labels such as Clubland under her stage name ‘Emma Diva, said: “Because of the extra taxes, we had to leave all our furniture and car behind.”
Since then they have been sleeping in Emma’s mum’s living room in Wavertree, Merseyside, while trying to find a property to rent, but due to being on benefits and having recently moved from abroad, Emma claims letting agencies “won’t touch [her] with a bargepole.”
She told Liverpool Echo : “Because I’m newly self-employed and receiving Universal Credit and eligible for housing benefit, no agent will touch me with a bargepole.
“I am able to pay rent, I just can’t get past the strict terms of letting agencies.
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“They want two years UK business accounts, which of course, I don’t have.”
Emma applied for a council house in July of this year, but said “very few properties come up in South Liverpool” adding “when they do, we’re nowhere near the top of the list”.
She said: “Weeks can go by and there are only properties in the North End, Widnes, and Wirral. As I’m not driving at present and our family and my daughter’s school are in Wavertree, we need to be within suitable travelling distance.
“We need to stay local now my daughter’s settled in school as the rest of her life has been so chaotic.”
Describing the living conditions, Ms Sweeney, who currently works as an afterschool music teacher in Childwall and has started a community choir at St Mary’s Church in Wavertree, said: “The living room is open plan and the front door opens directly into the room; therefore there’s no privacy whatsoever.
“No room for my daughter to play with her toys and certainly no room to have school friends over.”
Describing the effect the situation has had on her daughter Maia, she said: “She’s seven and it’s affecting her emotionally – she’s been tearful at school over the past half term and she’s never been like that before.
“She has nowhere to play – hasn’t even opened her May birthday presents because there’s nowhere for her to play with them.
“She cried at school when asked to do a task of drawing a picture of home, because she ‘doesn’t have one.’
“Her cats that we got for her birthday during lockdown are with my brother and she misses them dreadfully.”
A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council told The ECHO that the council were “aware of this case and are working with Emma to find her suitable accommodation.
“We appreciate the urgency of the circumstances of this family and are providing assistance to help find them suitable accommodation.”