A POPULAR festive run in aid of a homeless charity will take place virtually this year because of the pandemic.

Hope House Essex has announced the annual Great Notley and Braintree Santa run will not take place at its usual location in Notley Country Park in December.

But organisers are calling on supporters to do their own 5km challenge in a bid to raise cash for Hope House.

Entrants can either walk, run or cycle when doing the challenge and must post a photo of them doing it on social media.

Those who finish the 5km mission will receive a medal via post in the new year.

Director Dan Burdge said: "Feedback from the runners has been fantastic and really encouraging.

"We're hoping to keep that momentum going this year, despite the difficult circumstances - and then return to a physical event in 2021."

The issue of homelessness has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with people losing their jobs and being unable to pay rent - it has also made it harder for those already homeless, or those trying to get back on their feet. One of the big issues that Hope House is dealing with at the moment is looking after residents' and former residents' mental health, with support networks suddenly much harder to access. Hope House has two houses in Braintree in which they offer a temporary home to those who find themselves homeless - during their stay residents receive assistance with job seeking, searching for more permanent accommodation, as well as help to address any other issues they may be experiencing. The charity has also expanded their work to include supporting those residents that have moved on, to try to make sure that the cycle of homelessness is permanently broken; as well as building up an emergency fund to be able to offer help to people they are unable to house, but who need help with securing rental accommodation or similar. Tickets for the virtual event can be purchased from hopehouseessex.org.uk where anyone interested can find out more information. Santa suits are available to collect for those who live locally, alternatively, runners are encouraged to dress in any festive outfits they choose. Anyone wishing to set up a sponsorship page for their run can do so through Facebook Donate.