In County Durham and Hexham, a new Hope into Action franchise is taking shape in partnership with a charity called Core Foundations. Led by Phil and Caroline, they are building a franchise to offer our model and are working closely with other services who offer skills workshops and development opportunities for people affected by homelessness.

Core Foundations' launch was recently featured in the County Durham Journal, the local newspaper, written by Graham Robb. Here's the full article:

Working in aid of the homeless one house at a time

MY COLUMN normally looks at politics with a capital 'P', today I want to write about action with a capital 'A'.

This month, especially after the Budget, politics is particularly important. I quite liked the Budget, it cut tax a little without risking problems in the wider economy. It was a bit boring, but necessarily so.

However, I hope readers will forgive me if I devote my space to the story of a new charity being established in the North East and why I think it deserves support.

In January, I attended an evening business event in Newcastle. I walked back to my car with a lovely woman, who I will just call Caroline because she does not want to be the focus of the story, who runs a business in the North East and who happened to be parked in the same car park in Dean Street, Newcastle.

There was a homeless man lying on the pavement as we approached the car park. I did what I normally do, I walked past and ignored him. My friend did not, she asked me to stop with her and talked to the man on the pavement.

As well as being an accomplished and successful businesswoman, Caroline is also a street pastor. Street pastors are volunteers from local churches of all denominations and from all walks of life. They receive training in how to communicate with people who experience difficulties on the streets, from homeless people to party-goers who've imbibed too much alcohol or drugs on a night out in the city centre.

The man was lying on the ground in a sleeping bag covered with cardboard boxes. Nobody had ever stopped to enquire about him the way Caroline did that night.

At first, he told us to go away and leave him alone. Then a dog poked its head up from under the sleeping bag. It was quite a large dog but very friendly. The man was young, probably mid-20s, in clear distress and had been crying.

All Caroline wanted to know was that he was safe and whether she could do anything to make his life more comfortable.

She persisted and it became clear he didn't want her to get the police or social services involved. He was in pain, having been attacked that afternoon and kicked hard in the ribs. We established that he didn't want to go to hospital because the dog wouldn't be allowed in the accident and emergency room. We also established the dog was one of the causes of his homelessness - he was attached to the dog, yet few landlords would allow the dog to stay.

Although he didn't tell us, it was obvious he was in mental distress, and I would guess had some kind of mental illness that needed support and treatment. He did not appear to be high on drugs or alcohol.

He wanted money but only to buy dog food. He also wanted painkillers because his ribs were hurting.

I wouldn't normally give money to a homeless man in the street, not that I am ungenerous, but I worry that it is spent on the wrong things and that the help they need is not about cash in hand but support from professionals. However, in this instance I could help. I had some paracetamol in the car. I also had £20 in my pocket. Once I had a conversation with him, I was able to give him the money and tablets, confident that it would alleviate his immediate condition.

We said our goodbyes knowing that this brief encounter had made a small difference. For me, it was the first time I'd done something like this. For Caroline, it was one of many hundreds of encounters each year as part of her street pastor vocational work.

Caroline is a Christian, she takes scripture at face value and works to help people in greater need than herself. Two weeks ago, I attended a charity gala evening on behalf of the charity that she and her husband have launched in the North East,

Core Foundations. It is a North East offshoot of a wider national charity called Hope into Action. Its unique purpose is to enable churches to house the homeless.

Work began in 2010 with a handful of people passionate about changing homelessness in the city of

Peterborough. The seeds of the idea were sown in a local park one Sunday morning. The founder, Ed Walker, struck up a conversation with a stranger. He met a man who had been released from prison just the day before who had nowhere and no one to go to, he was drinking alone from a bottle on a park bench.

Phoning local homelessness services, Ed realised that many provide somewhere to sleep and are very professional, but few offer a home and a community of people who accept ex-prisoners.

Ed Walker has written a book about the charity called A House Built on Love. His charity started by purchasing one house in Peterborough and now has dozens around the UK. It asks individuals and faith groups to invest modest amounts, which are used to buy the properties. It tries to keep its rents affordable so that its tenants can find work and still afford to live in its houses. It has among the lowest rents of any homeless charity in the UK.

Core Foundations is the type of charity that could help the young man I met on the street in Newcastle a few weeks ago. It is also unashamed when it comes to discussing its Christian roots.

These days we discourage discussion of faith and God in our everyday life, but if it's the motivation behind the charity I see no reason why it shouldn't be permitted in a Christian country with an established church.

I am hugely impressed by the Street Pastor movement and by the work of Hope into Action. I'm pleased that, through Core Foundations, it is establishing a North East presence. I wish it well and I was pleased to make a small contribution at its launch event this month.

We'll be sharing more from this new franchise over the coming weeks as they work towards opening their first house for tenants soon.