As the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a grinding halt in March 2020, Morgan Francis' life also began to unravel.

While millions of people were urged to stay home, Morgan found himself without one - soon resorting to sleeping on a park bench in Cardiff.

Watching streets slowly emptying, and people fleeing the city to whether lockdown with loved ones, the 25-year-old carpenter was worlds away from his previous life.

As well as struggling with the isolation of being homeless during the pandemic, Morgan also sadly lost two family members during the last year and struggled to cope with his grief.

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The situation got so bad that Morgan says he found himself contemplating taking his life on several occasions.

Now, almost a year on, Morgan has found himself in stable accommodation and says he is feeling "positive" about the future.

However, he is honest and reflective about the struggles that led him to leave his family home in Ely, Cardiff, and find refuge on the streets.

Morgan Francis, 25, found himself homeless in March 2020

"It all started when I found out I was going to be a dad," said Morgan, "13 weeks later I found out that the child might not be mine."

"At the time I was still living at home with my parents so I was looking for a home for myself and the child - but after the news that it wasn’t going to be mine, and a family disagreement, I had no choice but to leave and make myself homeless."

Morgan said that when he found out he wasn't going to be a father to the child, he decided to take a step back from the mother. At the same time, Morgan was involved in a disagreement at the family home which he said gave him no choice but to leave.

"I spent three nights on a bench in Victoria Park in Canton. It was as lockdown was happening in March last year. I started to develop a bad chest from the weather and realised I needed to seek help.

“I was scared. The situation with the world, the lockdown. I never had the resources to look after myself if that makes sense. I was scared, I was alone, I didn’t know who to ask, I didn’t know who to speak to.

“I wanted the world to swallow me. I even remember thinking to myself I even wish I had corona so I had a bed to stay in in the hospital.

"I was making calls to Shelter, Mind, all sorts of people and then I spoke to a youth worker that I know personally and he helped me out through most of it.

"He guided me to shelter Cymru who placed me in the Huggard Centre in one of the pods."

Morgan says that while he was homeless he was offered drugs on several occasions as well as sexual favours in exchange for alcohol and cigarettes.

The Huggard Centre is a charity run organisation that aims to tackle homelessness in Cardiff. Visitors to the centre are able to have a hot meal or shower, a place to find refuge and there are several emergency accommodation rooms.

While he was given a place in the Huggard Centre, Morgan says that his anxiety about his personal situation as well as the coronavirus pandemic led his mental health to deteriorate.

He says he was feeling anxious about the virus spreading which led him to feel concerned about sharing facilities, but he added social distancing measures were in place constantly.

"The strain of it all meant I started having really bad mental health," he said.

"I started to have suicidal thoughts, I wanted to kill myself, I felt nothing was going forward. Everything you could possibly think of, I was thinking of doing."

During his first attempt to take his own life, Morgan rang Mind Charity who contacted the police who found Morgan and escorted him back to the Huggard Centre.

The Huggard Centre

Morgan says he was placed in a separate room to be looked after but the thoughts prevailed.

"Afterwards I couldn't do it, the next night I was on the Taff Embankment ready to jump into the river.

"Luckily a friend came and helped me, she brought me a pillow, she brought me a sleeping bag of my own because I was worried about covid. I was all over the place, everything was too much."

Shortly afterwards, Morgan was moved to the YMCA Ambassador hostel where he was given a room. The YMCA provides temporary accommodation for homeless people also helps residents find permanent solutions.

"After I got to the Ambassador I started pushing for more motivation in myself", he said.

Living hand to mouth Morgan began doing odd jobs for local residents in order to find money for food.

"I started doing some gardening jobs, cutting grass. I got myself a cheap strimmer and I did that for a week or two just to have a bit of pocket money for food.

"After that it started to go okay for me. I started feeling more motivated, more positive, I started going out on jobs so I wasn’t so isolated, I started exercising."

"I found myself a push bike and was travelling to Barry most mornings to see people if I didn't have any jobs just to get out of the YMCA."

Shortly after turning 25, the YMCA helped morgan to find permanent shared accommodation in Grangetown and he was able to qualify for Universal Credit who now help pay his rent.

Morgan, who is a skilled ice-skater, was due to work at the Cardiff in the Castle event last year as an ice marshall however the event was cancelled due to coronavirus.

He also suffered the loss of his uncle and grandmother while homeless, something Morgan said made the situation much harder to accept.

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Now, almost a year since Morgan left his family home, he says he is feeling positive about the future.

"I’m still in the shared accommodation but I’m much happier now. I don’t have mental health issues, I’m not ringing the doctors all the time, I’m eating healthy, I’m motivated.

“I feel free. That’s the only way I can express it. I’m able to do me.

"As much as the world has paused, time hasn't in a sense so we’re still moving forward."

Morgan says he would urge anyone who found themselves in a similar position to his to ask for help.

"It’s the mind that holds you back, so I think mental health and the importance of being positive is worth speaking about.

"It was asking for help that turned things around for me.

"I tried to hold my pride, I tried to hold my dignity you know.

"It was really tough. The cold nights in the dark field. There were less people on the street, less police on the street.

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"It was more isolating than just being homeless. Usually you see the world going on around you, people going on around you, but when I was homeless the world had stopped too."

Morgan is a trained carpenter and has more than seven years experience as an ice-marshall at events involving ice-rinks and says he is positive he will find work when coronavirus restrictions begin to lift.

"Because of my trade I don’t think I’ll ever struggle to find work and I think that was really important for me, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, that there would one day be a way through this.

"I feel settled now, I feel like I have a suitable address. Now is the time I can go out and better myself and find work - but the covid situation has put a pause on that.

"I am feeling positive for the future. I’m building on myself but now I’m looking at the next step of the ladder to move forward. With the world coming out of covid I’m pushing towards that, it was meant to be.

"I’m not at the end of my story but I’m looking to the next step of where I want to be."