Housing

Prince William insists it's possible to end homelessness as Homewards project turns one

Homewards has built coalitions in six locations around the UK to create and test long-term solutions for homelessness

Prince William at a meeting to launch Homewards, his mission to end homelessness

Prince William launched of Homewards – a five-year programme to demonstrate that it is possible to end homelessness in the UK – last summer. Image: Andrew Parsons / Kensington Palace

It’s one year since Prince William launched his five-year-long mission to end homelessness around the UK and the future king is pressing ahead with turning plans into reality.

The first year of the royal’s Homewards project has been spent building the foundations, according to Liz Laurence, Royal Foundation’s head of programme for the initiative.

That has involved creating coalitions at six flagship locations – Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Sheffield, Lambeth, Aberdeen, and Newport and Northern Ireland – bringing in partners from businesses to faith groups to homelessness and housing sector experts, like Big Issue.

Big Issue vendor Dave Martin and Prince William pictured selling copies of the magazine in Hammersmith, West London

In its first year, 539 individuals and organisations took part in more than 60 events. There is also a pipeline for 100 homes for people experiencing homelessness to move into in the long-term.

The first year will round out with a two-part ITV documentary as well as an art exhibition titled Homelessness: Reframed at Saatchi Gallery in August, featuring work from Big Issue vendor, artist and Prince William’s friend Dave Martin.

Works inspired by homelessness or artists with lived experience will be on show, including from David Tovey, photographers Marc Davenant and Rankin and poet Surfing Sofas, in a bid to change the narrative around homelessness and shift stigma.

Amanda Berry, chief executive of the Prince of Wales’ Royal Foundation, said: “Over the last year we have been working in partnership with six locations across the UK, bringing people and organisations together to create the foundations on which to build long-term change.

“Inspired by our belief that it is possible to end homelessness, we are already demonstrating what can be achieved if we all work together.”

Moving forward, each location will publish an action plan in the autumn on how they intend to tackle a chosen area of homelessness.

Aberdeen’s focus will be on using data to tackle youth homelessness and the consequences of relationship breakdown. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s focus will be on employability while Lambeth will look at the private rented sector.

The employment skills pathway will be Newport’s remit with Northern Ireland tasked with addressing care leavers and women’s experiences of homelessness. Sheffield will look to prevent young people and families becoming homeless while driving greater access to housing through grassroots community groups.

Homewards also has the backing of well-known figures across sport, music and homelessness, including advocates David Duke, Tyrone Mings and Geri Horner.

Former Big Issue vendor turned ambassador and one of the country’s leading female firefighters Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is also an advocate for Homewards. She said developing solutions to homelessness has been a “powerful” experience.

Cohen-Hatton will join the royal for a fireside chat in an event in Lambeth on today (11 July) where Prince William will also meet representatives from each location to check up on progress.

“We can look at ways of integrating programmes and potentially scaling them up so people can access those solutions,” said Cohen-Hatton.

“We know that ending homelessness is a big ambition. It’s a real mission and it’s going to take time. But what I’ve seen of the convening power of Homewards is getting people around the table who wouldn’t ordinarily be there that all hold a piece of the puzzle.

“It’s a chance for everybody to put those pieces together in a way that really shifts mindsets.”

Prince William’s bid to end homelessness is already facing a stiffer challenge than it was a year ago.

The number of people experiencing homelessness – whether it be rough sleeping, in temporary accommodation or calling on their local authority for support – has surged in recent months.

The new Labour government has promised to take a cross-government approach to tackling homelessness.

Homewards, as a non-political entity, sits outside of that for now, even if it shares the view that homelessness will only be solved by different stakeholders working together.

While Prince William’s project continues to take shape, his personal mission has already encouraged that shift in mindset at least.

Crisis chief executive Matt Downie said: “To see a conversation that shifts from cynicism and fatalism to one of possibility and dreaming big on homelessness is everything.”

Prince William launched Homewards after a fact-finding spell that even saw him don the Big Issue’s red tabard to sell the magazine alongside Hammersmith seller Martin.

He has since returned to the pitch to meet up with Martin and the pair even swapped Christmas cards last year.

Writing for the Big Issue after the “eye-opening” experience selling the magazine, the royal said: “I may seem like one of the most unlikely advocates for this cause, I have always believed in using my platform to help tell those stories and to bring attention and action to those who are struggling.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

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