AN MP has said it is an "absolute, desperate tragedy" that anyone should die homeless following claims people have lost their lives since a council removed dedicated support workers.

Middlesbrough community stalwart Susan Gill said five homeless people she has fed and helped at her homeless cafe on Princes Road, in Gresham have died in the town since Breaking the Boundaries officers were removed in April.

Middlesbrough Council's Breaking the Boundaries Team was set up to "make sure that every single individual who begs or sleeps rough is offered intensive support".

But on April 1 this year, a decision was made to redeploy the three team members, who had supported the homeless to quit drugs along with practical support such as attending medical appointments, applying for benefits and getting off the streets.

An extraordinary council meeting will take place next Wednesday, after being requested by Middlesbrough Independent Councillor Association leader Jon Rathmell, to discuss the withdrawal of the Breaking the Boundaries Team.

Middlesbrough MP and shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said it was important to "deal with the root causes of extreme poverty and homelessness".

Mr McDonald said: “It is an absolute, desperate tragedy that anyone should die homeless in Middlesbrough. We are the fifth richest country in the world and everyone in the UK should have a home to call their own.

"In Middlesbrough, I want to see the council building social housing and affordable homes for sale and rent through MHomes, which delivers housing on behalf of the council, to make sure we have the housing that the people of Middlesbrough need. We also need to deal with the root causes of extreme poverty and homelessness.

"With the botched roll out of Universal Credit, the longest wage stagnation since Victorian times and savage cuts to the public sector we have seen this Conservative government drive more and more people towards destitution.

"I want to see a real living wage for all workers, a mass public house building programme and a social security system that is there to support the most vulnerable in society so that we deal with the root causes of homelessness. Prevention is always better than cure.”

A spokesman for Middlesbrough Council said: “The Breaking the Boundaries team no longer exists in its previous form, however the officers have been redeployed in similar roles and the authority continues to provide services to help the most vulnerable in society.

“The council values the work of the Homeless Café and we are continuing to speak Susan Gill about our future relationship.”