Why it’s so exciting that Prince William is committing to ending homelessness
Recently, we saw Prince William and The Royal Foundation launch Homewards, a new five-year programme aimed at ending homelessness. The programme will take a place-based approach across six areas of the UK – Lambeth, Northern Ireland, Aberdeen, Newport, Bournemouth and Sheffield – all aimed at making homelessness ‘rare, brief and unrepeated’.
Levels of homelessness are increasing – with approximately 300,000 people experiencing homelessness across the UK on any given night. We have a severe shortage of genuinely affordable homes, and we’re seeing thousands of households straining under the constant pressures of rising rents and the increasing cost of living. Years of low wages and insecure work has left people with little protection from sudden economic shocks, and currently the welfare system isn’t able to adequality support people when they need help. The Homewards initiative comes at a crucial time.
Homewards is looking to address homelessness at a local level. It will bring together local communities, organisations and governments to develop and implement an action plan We know local communities are in a unique place to develop solutions to end homelessness about the challenges they face and we believe Homewards can become a pivotal part of our shared mission to end homelessness. That’s why it’s so exciting.
You may have seen over the last week the widespread media coverage that has come from the launch of the programme. It has been fantastic to see such a spotlight shone on the fact that homelessness is not inevitable - that in most cases it can be prevented, and that in all cases, it can be ended. The positive tone is a direct contrast to the often stigmatised and defeatist messaging that homelessness will always be there and often due to the fault of the individual.
For many years, we’ve worked with the FrameWorks Institute to understand the best way to talk about homelessness so that the public can better understand the systemic factors behind it – poverty, discrimination, a lack of genuinely affordable homes - and can get behind our work to end homelessness at a national and local level. That the Prince and The Royal Foundation have adopted this approach and are using their huge platform to change perceptions and challenge preconceived notions is truly wonderful to see.
I’ve also been interested to see some criticism aimed towards Prince William, questioning whether he is the right advocate for ending homelessness. I firmly believe he is – he not only is genuinely driven by righting one of society's wrongs, but his position and influence means that homelessness is now firmly on the public and media agenda. Tackling homelessness at a local level, drawing on the solutions we know work, such as Housing First, and ultimately placing focus on preventing homelessness rather than managing it, as the Westminster Government currently is, has the potential to make Homewards truly transformative.
It will take a whole of society response to end homelessness. Through Homewards we can make great strides towards a future where everyone has somewhere safe and stable to call home, but we also need to see the Government getting behind and funding the solutions that work. We’re incredibly excited to be one of the sector partners in the programme and look forward to working with The Royal Foundation over the next five years.
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