MORE and more people are being left out in the cold at Christmas as homelessness figures in England continue to rise.

There are 23 per cent more rough sleepers in the country than there was a year ago and that figure will get higher as reforms to welfare come into being, experts have predicted.

An event designed to offer Middlesbrough’s homeless population a touch of warmth and cheer during the festive season will take place this week.

In Out of the Cold, an annual event run since 2010 by Middlesbrough Council, aims to raise awareness of homelessness while providing advice and assistance to those affected by it.

Visitors receive hot food and a Christmas gift box, made up of donations and including items such as toiletries and winter essentials like hats, scarves and gloves. There will also be a carol service and live music from the Southmartins.

Councillor Charlie Rooney, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “In Out Of The Cold is a festive, positive event for the more excluded people of Middlesbrough, those who are homeless.

“We hope that it will raise awareness of the issues around homelessness, as well as being a good way to let people know of the many organisations in Middlesbrough who are able to help them.”

The event takes place on Friday, December 21 at Middlesbrough Town Hall from 1pm to 3pm. Anyone wishing to donate items to the homeless should drop them off at Middlesbrough Council’s Civic Centre reception before Thursday.