Housing

Prince William launches five-year Homewards project to end homelessness

The royal said he wants to show what can be done when communities are able to “prevent homelessness rather than managing it” as he kicks off £3m UK-wide project

Prince William launches Homewards project to end homelessness

Prince William meets with Tyrone Mings, Gail Porter, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and David Duke in Windsor, ahead of the launch of Homewards - a five-year programme to demonstrate that it is possible to end homelessness in the UK. Image: Andrew Parsons / Kensington Palace

Prince William has unveiled his big plan to end homelessness across the UK with the launch of his Homewards programme.

The Prince of Wales, who sold The Big Issue last year, said he wants to demonstrate that it is possible to end homelessness, and will set up projects around the UK to create plans and partnerships to tackle the problem at a local level.

The five-year project, backed by up to £3 million in funding, will give six flagship locations new space, tools, and relationships to showcase what can be achieved through a collective effort focused on preventing homelessness in their areas.

The locations will be revealed as the royal embarks on a tour of the UK on Monday (26 June) and Tuesday.

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 over the next five years, and give people across the UK hope that homelessness can be prevented when we collaborate. 

“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.” 

Prince William has stepped up his focus on homelessness in the last year, around 30 years after he was first introduced to the issue when his mother Princess Diana took him to homelessness charity The Passage in December 1993.

Since then, he has maintained an interest in highlighting the issue, and last year he sold The Big Issue magazine in Central London alongside vendor Dave Martin. The prince told Martin that homelessness was an issue he wanted to fight for and added that he wanted to “do a lot more” on the issue.

Earlier this month, the future king visited Centrepoint’s Reuben House in Peckham, South London to see how youngsters were being prevented from falling into homelessness, before telling The Sunday Times he planned to expose his own children to the issue.

In the background, Prince William and the Royal Foundation have been working with NGOs, public bodies, sector experts and people with lived experience to understand the complexities and drivers of homelessness.

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Now he has unveiled his own plan to end homelessness in Britain through Homewards.

Each of the six locations were selected by a national expert panel after demonstrating the ambition, potential and ability to tackle homelessness in the area.

Local coalitions of people, organisations and businesses will be created in each location to work on a tailored action plan to end homelessness, including solutions such as improving connections between services or focusing support on at-risk groups.

Groups will also be able to deliver innovative housing projects under the plans to test new ways to unlock homes at scale. Each location will be able to access support and advice from Homewards’ national partners.

Locations should be on a path to ending homelessness for good by making it rare, brief and unrepeated at the end of Homewards’ five-year commitment. The project’s ambition is to then make this “business as usual” around the UK and beyond, the Royal Foundation added. 

The prince plans to support Homewards by “shining a light on homelessness and working to break down the stigma around the subject and do what he can to help the locations involved in the project remain focused on prevention”, according to a Kensington Palace spokesperson.

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The Big Issue is one of 15 sector partners involved in the project alongside homelessness and housing charities Crisis, Centrepoint, Shelter and others.

Lord Bird, Big Issue founder, said: “As founder of the Big Issue Group I have spent over 32 years focused on putting an end to homelessness and extreme poverty. It’s a topic that’s very important to me, as I have also suffered the misery of homelessness and rough sleeping, and the pain and trauma that comes with that. Which is why I’m really pleased that we will be joining the new Homewards partnership, alongside other experts in the field, set up by the Prince of Wales.

“I know homelessness is an issue close to the prince’s heart, and I’m looking forward to working with him and the rest of the partnership to find long-lasting solutions to homelessness, and to ensure future generations will not be forced to suffer the horror and long-lasting trauma of homelessness.”

Prince William launches Homewards project to end homelessness
Former Big Issue vendor Sabrina Cohen-Hatton (centre left) is part of Prince William’s Homewards project along footballer Tyrone Mings (left), TV star Gail Porter (centre right) and Street Soccer Scotland founder David Duke (right). Image: Andrew Parsons / Kensington Palace

The project also has the support of a number of high-profile advocates, including footballers Tyrone Mings and Fara Williams and radio and TV presenter Sara Cox.

Gail Porter, a TV star who has experienced homelessness in the past, and David Duke, who founded Street Soccer Scotland, are also involved.

Former Big Issue vendor and current Big Issue ambassador Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is also an advocate of the project. Big Issue founder Lord John Bird said he was “delighted” to see Cohen-Hatton involved alongside The Big Issue.

“The best way to tackle homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place,” said Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis. “We have seen in other countries, such as Finland, that it is possible to end homelessness if we’re innovative and follow the evidence that people need housing first. We know we can do the same here with the right choices and by working together.

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“Homewards can become a pivotal part of our shared mission to end homelessness, which is incredibly exciting. We can only end homelessness if we rally together and Homewards is going to do exactly that.”

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