A Wearside mum has spoken of her joy at being reunited with her beloved son after seven years of searching for him.
In a video, which went viral on Facebook, homeless man Simon Easton, 25, said he had given up drugs and crime and wanted to put things right with his family in Washington.
Within hours, Joanne Easton’s phone was ringing off the hook and before long she was speaking to him at Leeds Tent City, where he has been living.
Volunteers at Tent City used donation money to drive Simon back to the city for the emotional reunion with his mum.
Joanne, 47, who now lives in a one-bedroom bungalow in Houghton due to ill -health, said: “It was amazing. Just to hear his voice for the first time was brilliant.
“I was shaking and couldn’t sit down. The whole family is just buzzing to have him back. Seven years is a long time.
“He is a totally different person now. We just sat up all night talking about things.”
Joanne, who also has two daughters and three grandchildren, explained that Simon’s behaviour in his early teens spiralled out of control and at 15 he was taken into care because he was a danger to his family.
Simon kept getting into trouble and, unknown to Joanne, he left Sunderland at 18 and ended up in Leeds, where he has spent the last seven years in and out of prison and living rough.
Joanne said: “I made myself ill looking for him. I got it into my head he was still in Sunderland and once a week I would go to the city centre and walk the streets looking for him.
“People used to ask why I was doing it after all the bad things he had done, but he is my son.”
Simon, who has mental health issues, said: “I never thought the video would go so far. It felt a bit weird at first being back.
“I am hoping by telling my story it will help other people.”
David Hedley, who formed Leeds Tent City last winter to help support and protect homeless people, said: “His past is his past. He’s changed his ways and has found his way back home.
“This is a real good news story. We try and help people and Simon has taken a big step to help himself.”
Both Simon and Joanne say they can’t thank Leeds Tent City enough for helping Simon get off drugs and turn his life around and for bringing him back home to his family.