HUNDREDS of homeless people across the north west will be warmer this Christmas, thanks to a community project by a Runcorn shopping centre.

Shopping City in Halton Link Road converted an empty shop unit into a reception centre in November to take in donations of duvets, blankets, coats and other clothing, which will be distributed direct to the region’s many homeless people.

Working closely with local radio station Wire Fm and homeless shelters, Halton Lodge in Runcorn, Room at the Inn in Warrington and Brennan Lodge in Widnes, Shopping City Runcorn ran its #Warm the Streets campaign for four weeks in the lead up to Christmas

On December 17, the last donations were received and will now be handed out to those in need.

Residents in Runcorn, Widnes and Warrington donated more than 60,000 items of bedding or clothing and the project has been so successful that shopping centres across the country have pledged to do the same next year.

Shopping City manager, Karl Clawley, said: "We have been blown away by the generosity of the local community.

"Halton is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country but that doesn’t stop local people having big hearts.

"The response has been amazing- someone came in with 300 spare sleeping bags and local Tesco distribution centre community manager David Coleman happened to be walking past and offered us the services of his staff to pack and sort all the donations.

"The fact that homelessness is such a major issue is absolutely shocking in the 21st century.

"Many of the safety nets that used to be there have disappeared and people are losing their homes due to unemployment, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues- it’s a heart-breaking situation."

Helping out from Tesco’s Widnes distribution centre were several young adults who have all been affected by the devastating impact of homelessness.

Arron Jones, 32, was taken into care, aged only four, due to drug problems in the family and was without a stable home for most of her youth.

She said: “I know what it’s like to experience that constant fear of losing your home and feel like you are beneath everybody.”

Her colleague Aaron Haydock, 27, also found himself on the streets for six weeks due to a breakdown in family relationships when he was 19.

He said: "I was locked out of my house and given an hour to collect my belongings and go.

"As a young single man, you are bottom of the heap when it comes to getting help, so I was bed-hopping with friends and on the streets for a month and a half before I managed to get a part-time job and slowly pull myself up.

"Homelessness can happen to anyone."