William is launching a bid to tackle homelessness
William will tour the UK to launch a project aimed at ending homelessness and ensuring the issue is “rare, brief and unrepeated”.
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 as he tries to emulate Finland, where the problem has been virtually eradicated, with his initiative called Homewards.
The five-year project will initially focus on six locations, to be announced over Monday and Tuesday, where local businesses, organisations and individuals will be encouraged to join forces and develop “bespoke” action plans to tackle homelessness with up to £500,000 in funding.
The future king, who was first taken to a homeless charity when a schoolboy by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales 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 begin a two-day tour of the UK to launch his project on Monday starting in London.
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.”
Homes will be a focus of the programme, with each location supported to deliver an innovative housing project that will test new ways to unlock homes at scale within the location and beyond.
The six chosen areas, which includes one in London, were selected after a bidding process and the findings and results of the initiative will be used to create models that can 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.
Relying on “temporary” solutions like hostels and bed and breakfasts was costing billions he claimed, adding: “Homelessness is not inevitable, as a provider of services to thousands of people across Britain every year. We know that in most cases it’s preventable, and in every case it can be ended.”
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.
“We know we can do the same here with the right choices and by working together. With levels of homelessness only set to increase innovative programmes like Homewards are more necessary than ever.”
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.”