A VOLUNTEER has been sent sleeping bags from as far away as Australia after his appeal to help the homeless went viral.

Photographer James Rudland launched the Sleeping Bag Appeal just under two weeks ago in the hope of gathering 100 to help those in need.

But within days, he had more than met his target and is now hoping to collect more than 1,000 sleeping bags as temperatures are expected to plummet.

The 40-year-old of Calvinia Close, Laindon, said: “I put it on Facebook and it just went ballistic.

We have had a huge uptake in 11 to 12 days with more than 300 sleeping bags from as far as Australia, NewYork, all different people.

“The page has gone crazy. It has been viewed by more than 30,000 people and close to 1,500 people have liked the page.

“We have had support from Luisa Zissman from the Apprentice, and former EastEnders star, Daniella Westbrook.

“It has just gone crazy. It has just grown and grown.

“I come home and every night there are packages of sleeping bags. The postman and delivery people have been fantastic.”

Mr Rudland set up the appeal with his friend, Rachel Frodsham, 27, after volunteering at homeless charity Crisis in London over Christmas and deciding to carry on helping.

He began by asking his friends and family if they had any old sleeping bags and then posted links to bags which were being sold on sites such as Amazon and Ebay and offering his address as a base for them to be posted to.

On Tuesday, the pair, along with other volunteers, spent about six hours giving out the first 100 bags.

They are initially focusing on London due to its high numbers of rough sleepers, but have also sent bags to Essex charities and are hoping to begin delivering them in Basildon and Southend.

Mr Rudland, who hopes to run the campaign for as long as possible, has also been delighted to have people from other areas asking if they could use his idea to help people near them.

He added: “It is such an easy thing to do. It is rewarding and they are so grateful. Every rough sleeper we have given a bag to has been so appreciative.”

For more information, visit the Sleeping Bag Appeal Facebook page.