£200,000 to get rough sleepers off the streets

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A NEW project aims help the homeless off the streets.

About 10 people are estimated to sleep rough in County Durham each night – most in Durham City.

Members of the public are to be asked to call a hotline number to enable outreach workers to make contact with the homeless person.

The person will then be offered accommodation and other help to rejoin mainstream society.

A government grant of £198,353 has been given to the Newcastle-based Cyrenians charity to run the project in the county.

Cyrenians’ chief executive Stephen Bell said: “The money will be used to provide staff to work closely with those suffering from real hardship to enable them to turn their lives around.

“The project will employ individuals with past experience of homelessness and rough sleeping.

“We know that those who have themselves experienced homelessness are the people with whom rough sleepers are likely to engage, and are also excellent positive role models.”

Former rough sleeper Stephen said the Cyrenians helped him turn his life around.

“They picked me up and were able to provide me with emergency accommodation,” he said.

“The staff put me on a bike course where I learned maintenance, and I did another course of public speaking at Durham University as part of their debating programme.

“Now I am always busy, and that keeps me from drinking. If I have problems, I can always talk to the Cyrenians about it.

“If it was not for their service and the staff, I would still be homeless, or even worse, dead,”

The project, called Durham Ace, is part of the nationwide Streetlink campaign to reduce the number of people sleeping rough,

Anyone wanting to inform Streetlink of a rough sleeper can do so by telephone: 0300 500 0914 or online: www.streetlink.org.uk.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho