Life in her rented Sudbury property had deteriorated into a constant battle against mould, poor health and disrepair. Unwittingly and, despite being a proud mother-of-two, she was being forced to raise her youngest child to know nothing better and she knew something had to change.
“By the time we left the property, he had grown to over 6ft tall and living in what was essentially a box room. The house was covered in mould, it was in disrepair and we had mice. No matter how often we tried to get rid of them, they were still there; in fact, it was almost like they were having a ‘mouse conference’ and it was happening in my home.
“After 13 years in the same property, we tried to make the best of it but it was hard. I had to be strong for Sinn-Kaye so I would never let myself cry in front of him. Instead, I waited until he was out with his friends and then I would break down but, over time, I could feel myself getting ill from the strain.”
Despite numerous attempts to improve conditions in her property, including visits from Environmental Health, Sharon’s home life showed no signs of improvement.
The family was evicted in October 2013 after further disagreements with her landlord and Sharon admits that when the decision came, all she could do was cry.
“Getting evicted when we did caused a lot of tension in my family, because it meant I missed my niece’s wedding; but it was worth it all in the end,” says Sharon.
“Before this happened, I knew I couldn't just leave my house with my son and go to my local authority for help because I would have been making myself intentionally homeless and they wouldn't have been able to help me.
“However, when I was evicted I was able to get help and the council found us a bed and breakfast in Southall. The problem was that Sinn-Kaye was, by now, in the final year of his GCSEs and my priority was to get him through that.”
And for that, Sinn-Kaye needed stability. Thankfully, that’s when Real Lettings came in to help.
“Because Sinn-Kaye was at the age he was, the council looked for a home for us fairly quickly and soon found us one in Woolwich, in south east London,” says Sharon.
“At first I said ‘no’ because it was too far from Sinn-Kaye’s school and I didn’t want him to leave. Different teachers have different ways of teaching and I didn’t want my son’s education to be disrupted any more. So I turned it down."
However, within an hour or so, Sharon had changed her mind and, after looking round the flat over the next few days, decided to go ahead.
“I met Gail from Real Lettings and she showed me around,” says Sharon. “I couldn’t believe it, my son started to smile and I knew there and then that this was to be my home.
“Sinn-Kaye was going to have a double bed and his own bathroom for the first time. There was so much more space for the two of us and it was clean - there were no mice and there was no mould.
“I had never been to Woolwich before but I loved it. I could see the river. We moved in on 20 December and spent our first Christmas there last year.”
Since the turn of the year, Sinn-Kaye has been making the trip across London to study at his old school, Barnhill Community High School, in Hayes, west London. Getting up at 5.30am in the grips of winter, he made it to class every day and has just received the news that he passed every one of his GCSE exams, confirming his place on the Whealdstone Football Club scholarship scheme at Stanmore College. This is a partnership to provide young footballers with sporting and academic excellence.
Sharon said: “I didn't know what we were coming to when we came to Woolwich because I had no friends or family here and it was a completely new thing to me.
“But I want to say ‘thank you’ to Real Lettings because I am enjoying this place and this is now our home.”
Amy Webb, Real Lettings manager, said: “Our job at Real Lettings is to provide the stability and security a good quality private rented sector home can offer a family and we are delighted that Sharon and Sinn-Kaye have found what they were looking for.
“For the next year, we will work with them to ensure they get the support they need to move on into full independence and, who knows, we may be seeing Sinn-Kaye scoring a goal on a Premier League football pitch in the years to come.”