"I just want to get back on my feet and be a good dad."

Those are the words of Lee Carson, the 36-year-old who's turned his back on a life of London gang crime to go straight.

And, after finding love on a mobile dating app with a girl from South Wales, he ended up moving here and the pair had a baby together.

However, for the last several months he's been sleeping rough, drifting homeless from place to place after revelations about his criminal past meant he was prohibited from moving into rented accommodation with his partner and child.

So, for the moment, home is underneath 'the Big Arch' in Abersychan, near Pontypool; a derelict Grade II-listed 19th century tunnel over which the fleets of the Monmouthshire Railway once passed.

There he waits - day in, day out - for news of when he can finally start getting his life together, in the meantime relying on the kindness of strangers who regularly drop by with food, drink and clothing.

"I came to Wales to get away from my past," said Lee who admitted to having been 'in and out of prison' up until he was 25.

"I've been done for carrying weapons, robbery, stealing cars, fighting - all after falling in with the wrong people.

Lee Carson said he's been amazed by the kindness shown to him by the local community

"Well, being related to some of them actually, which makes it all the harder to get away.

"But I just got tired of having to watch my back all the time, and things came to a head when I saw someone repeatedly stabbed right in front of me on the way to a local Sunday afternoon football match.

"That was in 2019 and it made me realise I had to change my ways - I'd seen too many people lose their lives or end up behind bars as a result."

Having got a job pouring concrete he found himself working with two lads from Torfaen who invited him to visit them, about the same time he happened to meet a girl from the borough on a lonely hearts website.

"We got together and had a daughter. It was amazing," said Lee.

"But then social services got involved, found out about my past and decided they wanted to check me over - until which time I've been told I can't stay with my two girls at their place."

Lee worked as a binman and a steel fixer until the pandemic hit, after which he had to go onto Universal Credit.

Lee said his criminal past is behind him thanks to the birth of his daughter, who's now seven months old

He was provided with temporarily accommodation in nearby Griffithstown at the start of 2021, but claimed that the property was infested with rats and covered in black mould, making it uninhabitable.

"I raised my concerns, told them I was going to take it higher, but I got evicted.

"I had 24 hours to get all my stuff out of there."

Since taking up subsequent residency under the Big Arch, however, he said he's been amazed by the kindness shown towards him by the local community.

"People have been really incredible - every time I come back to my tent I find something new has been left for me."

Indeed, in the short time WalesOnline was there two cars arrived, one dropping off high visibility wet weather gear and an extra sleeping bag, and the other tinned food.

One person even suggested he should get work as a lookalike for US actor and Aquaman star Jason Momoa.

"I lost out on so much happiness because of how I was living before"

"Even being homeless here in Wales is better than the life I left behind," added Lee, who now gets two 90 minute sessions a week at a council contact centre in which he can see his daughter.

"They've got me enrolled on parenting courses to prove I can be a good dad.

"And that's fine because that little girl is my reason to keep fighting and being strong. She is my cub, my princess."

He also uses what money he gets to help the 18-year-old son he has back in England.

"It's not much, but even if I can help pay his bus fare to college then that's a start," said Lee.

"I lost out on so much happiness because of how I was living before. So I want to have a stronger bond with my boy too."

He added that previously he'd have turned to crime - "done whatever I needed to do" - to get himself off the streets.

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"But that's not who I am anymore. This is my chance to be someone good."

A Torfaen County Borough Council spokesman said: "Mr Carson was provided with temporary accommodation by Torfaen Council in January.

"He was asked to leave after a number of incidents during which he was abusive and made threats to staff.

"The rats and mould were reported and both matters were dealt with promptly by the property owner.

"Mr Carson has been advised Torfaen Council will continue to work with him to find accommodation, and provide advice and support."