A NORTH-East charity project aimed at ensuring no-one spends a second night sleeping rough on the streets is one of the biggest winners in a £3.6m Government scheme announced today (Friday, January 18).

Twenty-two projects across England will share in the Homelessness Transition Fund (HTF), the Coalition has revealed.

One of the biggest winners is The Cyrenians, in County Durham, which will get nearly £200,000 to extend its ACE (Adults facing Chronic Exclusion) service countywide.

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Project workers visit known homelessness hotspots, offering rough sleepers help with housing, health and social services.

Neil MacKenzie, the project manager, said: “This funding means we’re able to extend and the service and establish what the real need and demand is, over a longer period of time.”

Since the ACE project was launched last summer, 69 possible homeless people have been identified across Chester-le-Street and Durham City, which – despite its leafy reputation – has a significant homelessness problem.

In summer 2011, police and charity workers began weekly dawn sweeps looking for rough sleepers and, that October, the city was shocked by the death of a homeless man on the street.

The new funding will pay for two extra ACE workers to extend the service into south Durham and sustain it until summer 2014.

The HTF was set up to deliver the Government’s goal of ensuring no-one spends a second night sleeping rough.

It complements StreetLink, a new England-wide hotline and website allowing the public to report a rough sleeper – which has received more than 4,000 calls since its launch in December.

Housing Minister Mark Prisk said: “We have some of the strongest protections in the world against homelessness and our £20m investment to ensure nobody should have to face a second night on the streets is a key part of this.

“Today’s funding for Durham will mean that the Cyrenians will help make this a reality. And with the addition of new rough sleeping hotline StreetLink, people who want to make a difference in Durham can now take a very simple step to connect rough sleepers quickly to the help they need.”

To report a rough sleeper, call StreetLink on 0300-500-0914 or visit streetlink.org.uk