Opinion

Prince William’s Homewards is bound to attract cynics. Let’s give it a chance

Prince William's plan to deal with homelessness should be supported, whatever you think of his family

Prince William launches Homewards

Prince William launches Homewards in 2023. Image: The Royal Foundation

The reaction to Prince William’s homelessness plan is as much a story of our time as the plan itself. It’s worth recapping what he’s up to. Billed as Homewards, William said it’s his life work to fix homelessness. That is certainly an ambition. He has drawn together 15 organisations at the forefront of homelessness and homeless prevention to look at workable solutions. The Big Issue is one of them.

Focused on six test areas across the UK, he’s asking key people and organisations in those geographical areas, each faced with a more prominent contributing factor around homelessness, whether it be lack of mental health provision or youth homelessness, to work together on solutions and then to see if those solutions could be rolled out. He’s sticking £3 million into the project. That’s it, in essence, with added Ginger Spice. 

It didn’t take long for the cynicism to edge in. There is quite a range. It runs from fury that he hasn’t given over tracts of land for development, or palaces to allow people to bed down in, to dismissal that it’s all platitudinous virtue signalling on a royal scale, that it’s a political problem and should be tackled by government, and, well, it’s only a drop in the ocean and what difference will it make anyway, so why’s he bothering. 

And while I think it’d be interesting to house dozens of rough sleepers in Buckingham Palace (at the very least there is a documentary in that), I think these reactions are more about making those people feel better about their reaction and allowing them to make a show of the reactions, than about the thing William is trying to do. Such remarks are the lifefuel of social media. 

They are also all a bit wrong.  

Obviously, to make wholesale structural change to the manifest problems maintaining people in poverty or in mental health provision or in help for care leavers, or any other of the elements that lead to homelessness, you’d need a massive change of approach at governmental level, and huge investment. And some homes on the royal estates would be helpful. (Maybe that’s the next stage.) 

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

But William is doing two things. He’s present. When somebody like him can draw attention to any cause that needs support, that is helpful and will deliver a positive boost. And he’s focused on prevention, a watchword of many years from Big Issue. With Homewards, he’s also focusing on real and sustainable outcomes, not just talking shop.  

By working with the smaller groups in various locations with a prevention aim, to stop vulnerable people falling into homelessness, he has something of a better chance than a top-heavy, top-down one size MUST fit all plan from central government.  

You don’t have to be a royalist to support his plan. You just have to be supportive of something with purpose that is trying to properly impact, over a period of time, and that could result in much more positive lives for many for whom the horizon is narrowing. 

Sometimes you need to chew down on your cynicism and get beyond your own baggage. There is a bigger issue.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
We took the Home Office to task for lying on modern slavery. We still don’t have answers
car washes have been highlighted as modern slavery hotspots
MAYA ESSLEMONT

We took the Home Office to task for lying on modern slavery. We still don’t have answers

We can make the four-day working week a reality – and make it work for everyone. Here's how
Andrew Fennell

We can make the four-day working week a reality – and make it work for everyone. Here's how

Westminsterism may think it knows best – but dismantling it can help us move forward
Affected families in Westminster after the damning report into the infected blood scandal was published
John Bird

Westminsterism may think it knows best – but dismantling it can help us move forward

How the life-affirming power of the chicken helped me understand grief and loss
Catherine Swire

How the life-affirming power of the chicken helped me understand grief and loss

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know