A CAMPAIGN has been launched to tackle the spiralling problem of homelessness on Teesside.

Francis Owens, Teesside Homeless Action Group manager says the number of people sleeping rough and asking for the group's help is already in the hundreds and rising.

Mr Owens, who has been homeless himself, said that between 240 and 280 homeless people in Redcar and Middlesbrough are asking the charity for assistance and there are other homeless people not known to his chairty.

"These are only the people who come through here and the number is increasing," he said.

"This is homelessness caused by, or contributed to, alcohol or drug abuse."

People are sleeping rough in parks, sheds, and cars and their numbers are being swelled by rough sleepers moving north from other parts of the country.

They target seaside towns, such as Redcar, in the hope of finding casual jobs.

A project worker started work on Monday, meeting Teesside's street people. Her brief is to try to prevent those with drink, drugs or mental health problems losing their homes.

Mr Owens said that when money runs out an easy option is just to run away.

"They dump their tenancy, or if they are in a bed and breakfast it is easy just to move on, creating a chaotic lifestyle. What we hope to do is try to stop this cycle they get themselves into."

Funded through Comic Relief, the project worker will try to help people begging a living or taking drugs or drinking on the streets of central Middlesbrough and Redcar.

She will be working for the homeless action group, which is also training volunteers to advise on drugs, drink and related issues.

Plans are being made to extend an outreach service to Stockton and Hartlepool.

The group has won grants of £172,980 to support its work in helping with accommodation, benefits, debt, welfare advice, resources for newly-housed homeless people and finding work for people.