Is it the Royal family's job to end the scourge of homelessness? Prince William thinks it is

Critics have argued that the issue Prince William is looking to tackle is one for the government and not the Royal Family to solve, as Royal Editor Chris Ship reports

Is it the job of a member of the Royal Family to attempt to end the scourge of homelessness in the UK?

Prince William, the heir to the throne, thinks it is.

But the launch of his Homewards initiative today will inevitably leave him open to criticism – given his wealth, his own property portfolio, and his life of privilege from the day he was born.

The Prince and Princess of Wales currently have three homes: in Kensington Palace, on the Windsor estate, and at Anmer Hall in Sandringham.

William, as the new Prince of Wales, was also passed the vast Duchy of Cornwall estate from his father, when Charles became King.

The Duchy, which includes swathes of land mostly in the South West of England, is a private estate which was set up in 1337 to give the heir to the British throne an income independent of the Monarch.

It funds the public, private, and charitable activities of William and Kate.

But today Prince William believes he can make a major contribution towards eradicating homelessness.

He was first taken to a homeless shelter by his late mother, Princess Diana, in 1993 when he was just 11 years old.

It was run by the charity The Passage, of which William is now patron.

William (centre) was first taken to a homeless shelter by his late mother, Princess Diana, in 1993 when he was just 11 years old. Credit: The Passage

The prince will focus the £3 million Homewards project on six areas of the UK over the next five years, with the aim of creating practical and workable solutions which can subsequently be rolled out to all areas of the country.

William will tour all six locations in the next two days.

He believes the UK can follow Finland’s lead, where they have, more or less, ended the issue.

The UK has an estimated 300,000 people who are experiencing homelessness and Prince William said: “I don’t believe it needs to be this way”.

The Princes’ Royal Foundation, which is funding this project, said it wants Homewards to help all the six locations to get “on a path to ending homelessness for good – making it rare, brief and unrepeated.”

But the new project does run the risk of William’s work straying into the area of government policy.

“Homelessness is a political issue which needs a government response”, said the group Republic, which campaigns for an elected Head of State.

Graham Smith, Republic’s CEO, said: “Ending homelessness requires government intervention, not royal platitudes."

A former Conservative government minister, Rob Wilson, said he was “pretty sure this approach was trialled by government in about 2016” with “some success”. Although he admits the approach was charity led.

Prince William suggested in a recent newspaper interview that he is considering building social housing on land he owns, in his capacity as the Duke of Cornwall.

As for criticism about his own homes and wealth, a Kensington Palace source insisted this project is not a “PR stunt”.

The source said: “This is about creating a programme that is truly sustainable that will create systemic change.”

William’s aides believe the prince can “cut through and have real impact”.

The Prince of Wales meets with a member during a visit to Mosaic Clubhouse in Lambeth, London. Credit: PA

Prince William, along with his brother Prince Harry (in the days when they used to work together) did have a huge impact in the mental health space by helping to end the stigma surrounding the issue, and encourage people to talk and share their own experiences.

It’s something he intends to do for the issue of homelessness and intends make it one of his key priorities as the heir to the throne, alongside his environmental award scheme Earthshot.

His father, as Prince of Wales, was often criticised for straying into areas which traditionally members of the Royal Family do not enter.

But most now accept, King Charles was a pioneer when it came to the issues of environmental damage and climate change.

It’s a fine line to tread. What is the work of government? And what is the work of senior members of the Royal Family?

What most people do accept, however, is that the royals have a power to convene, and to bring key players together on certain issues - that even elected politicians struggle to achieve.

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