William is launching an initiative to tackle homelessness
The Prince of Wales has set his sights on making rough sleeping, sofa surfing and other forms of temporary accommodation a thing of the past.
Britain's future King said he is pleased to be at the “start of our path to ending homelessness” as he launched his new initiative Homeward, at a Lambeth organisation supporting local residents with mental health issues.
He said: “Over the next five years, I believe that we have a unique opportunity to develop innovative new solutions and scale tangible impact.
“This will inspire belief throughout the UK – and beyond – that homelessness can be ended for good.”
William spoke about his personal connection to the issue, telling the audience how Diana, Princess of Wales took him to charity The Passage in December 1993.
He said: “My first visit to a homelessness shelter was when I was 11, with my mother. The visits we made left a deep and lasting impression.
“I met so many extraordinary people and listened to so many heart-breaking personal stories.
"Too many people have found themselves without a stable and permanent place to call home.”
He has a long history of working with charities helping on these issues, and even celebrated at 'Nash' a homeless day centre in Newport with King Charles ahead of his 21st birthday in 2003.
As he launched his initiative, Prince William said: “In a modern and progressive society, everyone should have a safe and secure home, be treated with dignity and given the support they need.
“Through Homewards, I want to make this a reality and over the next five years, give people across the UK hope that homelessness can be prevented when we collaborate.”
William, patron of the homelessness charities Centrepoint and The Passage, will complete a two-day tour of the UK to launch his project on Monday.
He added: “I am fortunate to have seen first-hand the tireless work of people and organisations across the sector, the tangible impact their efforts can have and what can be done when communities are able to focus on preventing homelessness, rather than managing it.
“It’s a big task, but I firmly believe that by working together it is possible to make homelessness rare, brief, and unrepeated and I am very much looking forward to working with our six locations to make our ambition a reality.”
How will Prince William's Homeward initiative work?
The five-year project will initially focus on six locations which will be announced over Monday and Tuesday.
In each area local businesses, organisations and individuals will be encouraged to join forces and develop action plans to tackle homelessness.
They will be supported, with up to £500,000 of funding, to deliver a housing project which will test new ways to unlock homes at scale within the area and beyond.
While launching his scheme Prince William said: “Lambeth will become part of a network of six flagship Homewards locations across the UK, all committed to creating and delivering a plan to prevent homelessness in their areas.
“Their in-depth knowledge of the specific issues and requirements of their local areas will drive forward the work – and we will be here to support you, bringing together an unprecedented network of individuals and organisations with expertise, resources and the commitment to end homelessness.”
The six chosen areas, which includes one in London, were selected after a bidding process.
The findings and results of the initiative will be used to create models that can be adopted by other parts of the UK.
There are around 300,000 people experiencing homelessness across the UK on any given night according to Matt Downie, chief executive of the charity Crisis, one of a number of homelessness partner organisations of Homewards.
Mr Downie described the factors “pushing” people into homelessness as “complex,” citing a “severe shortage of genuinely affordable homes,” rising rents, the increasing cost of living, years of low wages and insecure work that have left people unable to cope with “sudden economic shocks” and a welfare system unable to support them.
He went on to say: “The best way to tackle homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place. We’ve seen it in other countries such as Finland, where homelessness is all but ended, and we’ve seen it when we follow innovative programmes that give people housing first."
Accompanying the launch is a new Ipsos survey commissioned by William’s Royal Foundation aimed at helping to improving understanding about the issue.
It revealed one in five (22%) of 3,473 adults questioned in May have some personal experience of homelessness either directly (9%) or via family (8%) or friends (7%).
The research found 72% of those questioned thought homelessness had got worse during the past 12 months, while 73% believed that ending homelessness was not given enough attention by society.
The future King described his project as “an additive to what is already being done” in a Sunday Times interview.
But Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, criticised the plans and called on him to “directly” challenge the government for, it claimed, causing homelessness.
Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive officer, said: “Homelessness is the result of government policy and lack of investment, it isn’t something that can be resolved by charity or royal patronage.
He highlighted the prince’s three homes, Adelaide Cottage, a four-bedroom property in Windsor Castle’s Home Park, Kensington Palace’s 20-room Apartment 1A and Anmer Hall, a mansion on the King’s private Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Mr Smith said: “It is also, in part, the result of economic inequality, something represented by the super-rich royals who live in multiple palatial homes.”
In the newspaper interview William was asked if there were plans for affordable housing on Duchy of Cornwall land he inherited on becoming the Prince of Wales and replied “There is. Absolutely. Social housing. You’ll see that when it’s ready.”
A royal source said: “The prince believes that rather then just continue to shine a light on the issue, that it’s time to take action.
“And yes, he may be in the position he is in, but this isn’t about big gestures, this isn’t about a PR stunt.
“This is about trying to deliver systemic change to the way that we as a society think about homelessness.”
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