A CHARITY for homeless people fears it may not be able to provide its services over the harsh winter months unless it recruits more volunteers.

First Stop Darlington, in Tubwell Row, hopes to open overnight when the temperatures drop below freezing between December and February.

Last year, the Below Zero initiative helped 38 people, aged between 17 and 57, who would have otherwise been sleeping rough on the streets.

The charity provided them with hot meals, a shower, a laundry service and shelter from the cold in a safe environment from 8pm to 7.30am.

Organisers at First Stop want to run the project again this year, but are concerned about the lack of volunteers and donations.

Manager Karen Grundy said: "What we are asking for is for people to pledge just one night in those three months when they can be available and if the temperature falls below freezing, we will contact them and ask them to help out.

"All the volunteers will be given training, but we are not expecting them to do anything too taxing. The job mainly involves serving hot soup, making cups of tea and being there for a chat and generally for company.

"We sometimes find the people who come to stay have a bit of a restless night and it is comforting for them to know there is someone to talk to should they want to."

She added: "We also provide food parcels for people who are hungry. However, without the support of the public, we won't be able to provide our services this winter."

The charity is also urging residents and businesses to make a donation.

The money would be used for the general running of the shelter and to buy a steady supply of bread, cereals and milk. Last year, the average number of people using the shelter a night was five, but the facility can accommodate up to 12 people.

Ms Grundy said between six and eight people sleep rough on Darlington's streets every night.

Anyone wanting to offer their services, or who wants to make a donation, can drop into the facility or call (01325) 254463.