18 Jul Coronavirus: UK will never have a better chance to ‘crack’ homelessness, says Prince William | UK News
The Duke of Cambridge has said he believes the UK will “never have a better chance” to “crack” the problem of homelessness despite the challenges caused by COVID-19.
Prince William made the comments while speaking to a group of former rough sleepers at a drop-in centre in Cambridgeshire.
He was visiting the Light Project Peterborough to hear how agencies in the city had come together during lockdown to help the homeless.
William said: “I’m really hoping – I mean this pandemic has been truly horrendous for everyone – I’m really hoping that the slivers of positivity and the slivers of goodness that might come out of this is in the homelessness side of things.
“You’ll never have a better chance nationally to crack homelessness and do something properly.”
In March, the government launched the Everyone In campaign, helped by local councils, so thousands of rough sleepers and users of communal night shelters had a roof over their head and somewhere they could self-isolate if necessary.
In Peterborough, 130 rough sleepers were rehoused and helped with food and support services by the council and a range of voluntary groups working together, some for the first time.
Steven Pettican, CEO of Light Project Peterborough said: “We’ve got someone off the streets, who’s maybe been on the streets for maybe five or six years.
“Now we’ve got them in a hotel room, let’s feed them, let’s love them, let’s support them.”
He added: “Let’s throw as much as we can to these folks at this time, because this is almost, as some people have said, a once in a lifetime opportunity to get people off the streets.”
During the visit, Prince William chatted to former homeless clients including Gary Griffiths who described his “nightmare” experience of living in his truck for six weeks and losing his brother to COVID-19. He has now been rehoused.
Mr Griffiths, a lead roofer who carried out restoration work on Windsor Castle following the 1992 fire, broke the ice when the duke first arrived, asking him: “Excuse me sir, have you lost weight?”
William replied, laughing: “I’m worried now where you’re looking at, do I look like I’ve lost weight? Around the jowls maybe, have lost a bit of weight up here, around the chin?
“Maybe lockdown hasn’t been quite so (bad).”
After William had left, Mr Griffiths said they’d shared another joke away from the cameras, after the prince admitted eating jellied eels once.
Gary said: “I said ‘you need a bit of pie and mash in you, fatten you up a bit’, and he said, ‘don’t, I ate jellied eels on a hangover’.”
Robert Smale, 55, had been living in a tent for more than six years after an amicable break-up but only reached out for help when the lockdown meant he had nowhere to wash. He’s now in accommodation.
When William asked what his hopes were for the future, Mr Smale replied: “Personally I’ve got no intention of going back on the streets again. (If) I’ve got this chance to better my life – then I’ll take your arm off, I’ll take it with both hands and snatch.”
Towards the end of June, the government committed more money to stop thousands of homeless people returning to the streets after charities had warned they could be evicted from hotels if more money wasn’t made available.
Rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless are being helped to secure their own tenancies through a £105m scheme – £85m of which is new funding.