Natalie Cox is pregnant, drinking heavily and says she's performed sex acts on men just to get her head down on a pillow for the night and avoid the cold, hard streets of Swansea.

The 26-year-old is only at the early stages of her pregnancy and said being homeless in the city was a harrowing ordeal, compounded further by the fact she was expecting.

“I am trying to survive on the streets - it’s complete madness," she said.

“It’s bad, it’s really bad. I’m just constantly drinking. I should not be in this space. I split up from my boyfriend and I’m two months gone - the doctor confirmed it. I have always relied on my other half for everything and I need somewhere to live.”

Read more: What the Welsh Government expects Christmas in Wales to be like

Natalie Cox admitted to having to sell herself for sex just to get a place in the warm

Natalie, who moved to Swansea when she was 14, said she was estranged from her family.

Originally from Gorseinon, she said life on the streets had always been tough, but 2020 was harder than she had ever known. You can read more stories about Swansea here.

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“A man tried to throw me off the SA1 bridge last year at 2am,” she said.

“It’s f****** horrible, I’ve had to sofa surf. I’ve had to perform sex acts on men to get my head down on a pillow. I was desperate to get anything.”

“It’s hard. I know I’m pregnant but I’m drinking more. The winter is going to be horrible. I am worried about the cold and keeping myself warm.”

Natalie said a man tried to hurl her off the SA1 bridge

Trying to keep out of the cold is one of the main worries for Swansea’s homeless population as they fear that one night they might fall asleep and not wake up after succumbing to the plunging temperatures.

Andrew Knee, 42, of Merthyr, said he turned to crime during the winter months just to get a roof over his head in the warmth of prison.

He said he had spiralled into homelessness for some time but the tipping point was when he split up with his wife and the mother of his child, and it had led to him being on the streets for 15 to 16 months - his longest stint yet.

Andrew Knee said he would look to get back into prison to escape the cold

“My world smashed when that happened,” he said. “I have been on and off on the streets for years but this has been the longest.

“It’s hard, your creature comforts are gone - like waking up and making a cuppa. It’s everything. When you have nowhere to live, it ain’t nice at all, everything I took for granted has gone.”

Andrew added: “Last winter it was below freezing and you are too cold to move. Every day I worry about not waking up the next day. It’s not nice, you are not even sleeping through the night, it’s so cold.

“I will try to go to jail, I have been in and out of jail my whole life. Some just go in after doing a shoplift but with my record, it’s impossible. I will have to do something to go to jail to get a bit of warmth.”

He said only the fittest survived while rough sleeping in the city.

Andrew said it was a challenge to survive on the city's streets

“You have to be a tough f***** on these streets,” Andrew said.

“I have been sleeping and booted out of my sleep, especially with people coming out of the pub. You end up with people pissing on you. I go begging to put something in my belly, Covid made it hard financially as it had all gone. You just see what the next day brings.”

Rough sleepers are being offered a place to sleep if they want it by Swansea Council under the city’s homelessness strategy. The knock-on effect has been that levels of homelessness are said to have dropped in the city as a result due to the link-up between the local authority and partner organisations.

Andrew said he would fall asleep at night and feared he would never wake up

But some still make the streets their home and Kane Williams, 38, of Caerau in the Llynfi Valley, is one of them.

Kane said his life had been blighted by drink and drug problems and that he was on a cocktail of medication to keep his mental health under control.

He said he suffered from ADHD along with paranoid schizophrenia and he was shaking as he spoke following the devastating loss of his brother a couple of days ago, who he did not want to name, as his death was still too raw.

Kane Williams is struggling to cope with the loss of his brother as well as sleeping rough

“My mate put me up last night, if I was out I would have been dead, it was so cold,” said Kane.

“I have been on the streets for a year and a bit and was in a wet house before that as I had problems with drink and drugs.

"It’s terrible on the streets, I just walk around at night. You can’t sleep in the cold. I went to Port Talbot and then onto Neath - the flat I had was full of mould. People said to come over here, I have mates on the streets.

“I have health problems and have to take nine different tablets every day. When you are homeless it’s hard work.”

He revealed that during the pandemic he picked up coronavirus during his time in the wet house, where he was seeking help for his addictions.

But Kane was one of the lucky ones to pull through.

Kane has a series of health problems which makes sleeping on the streets harder

He said: “Covid was an ordeal. I had Covid once, it was horrible - I could hardly breathe. A couple of people in the wet house had it but I luckily made it. In the Covid pandemic I was dodging people.”

He added: “My memory and mental health has got worst. I lost my brother a couple of days ago and I am drinking harder.”

He warned that some of the population of homeless people who remained on Swansea’s streets would lose their lives this winter. But Kane, whose health problems are exacerbated by the cold, said he hoped he would not become one of that number.

“It’s a challenge every day, it’s hard work. The winter is the worst time to be homeless. It’s cold and I have got problems with my liver. People are going to die because it’s so cold in the winter. If I had a bedsit, I could sort my head out.”

Kane said the plunging temperatures would lead to a loss of life on the city's streets

Steps have been taken by local authorities Wales-wide to tackle the homelessness crisis during the pandemic as part of the Welsh Government’s homelessness response.

Twenty-one of Wales’ 22 councils said the ongoing provision of self-contained emergency accommodation had been key in preventing or minimising homelessness.

Research carried out as part of Homelessness Monitor Wales 2021, commissioned by homelessness charity Crisis and led by Heriot-Watt University, offers a comprehensive and crucial study of homelessness in Wales.

A total of 19 councils said the suspension of the “priority need” test for support had been important in preventing or minimising homelessness.

Help is available for the homeless across Wales

You should tell your local council if you are homeless or are about to be made homeless.

Local authorities have Housing Options teams in place which tackle homelessness in their area. Go here to find your local authority

The Wallich also offers a homelessness service across Wales. You can get more information on that here.

Contact the housing charity Shelter Cymru through its website - sheltercymru.org.uk

Advice and support is also on offer through its phone line for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. People should call 0345 0755 005.

The Samaritans also offers emotional support and you can call them for free at any time of the day on 116 123. People wishing to call the service in Welsh should phone between 7pm and 11pm, seven days a week, on 0808 1640 123.

The contact information is for Wales only.

People who are worried about rough sleepers can also contact StreetLink here.

Two thirds of councils now support the permanent removal of the test, which blocks some single adults with no children from getting rehousing support.

The Wales Homelessness Action Group is also backing the move and the test is being reviewed as part of the Welsh Government’s action plan to end homelessness.

But 21 of the 22 local authorities have said they were prepared for homelessness to increase after the ban on evictions on private tenancies ended back in June and six-month notice periods have been extended until at least the end of 2021.

The report further warned that two thirds of councils were expecting more people to be seeking homelessness due to homeowner repossession, with the same number expecting an increase due to job loss, following the end of furlough and the £20 cut to Universal Credit.

The Welsh Government is covering the cost of emergency self-contained accommodation for anyone who needs it, along with more settled move-on accommodation.

Back in August, it also pledged £250million towards 20,000 new low carbon homes for social rent.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This research shows that the Welsh Government has taken the right approach to protect people from homelessness in the pandemic: using its devolved powers to continue providing emergency accommodation to anyone who needs it, while funding crucial move-on accommodation and committing to serious investment in social homes. It is vital that this highly effective action is continued so we can end homelessness in Wales for good.

“But it is very concerning that as we enter winter, councils across Wales are expecting rises in homelessness. It is critical that councils, government, health services and charities continue working together, as they have done throughout the pandemic, to ensure no-one slips through the cracks, no-one is left out of support.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, of Heriot-Watt University, the lead author of the report, added: “The Wales Homelessness Monitor shows that interventions targeting homelessness during the pandemic were highly effective at making sure the many people experiencing or at risk of homelessness had somewhere safe to stay.

“But our research also illustrates that the economic aftermath of the pandemic risks an immediate rise in levels of homelessness.

“Looking forward we must build on the positive work happening in Wales through the current Programme for Government and five-year Action Plan to make sure the Covid-19 crisis doesn’t lead to increased levels of homelessness, and that we achieve long lasting change.”

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