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Prince William ‘Knows Trauma’ and Has ‘Compassion’ for the Unhoused, Campaigner Says

A year after the launch of his ambitious project, the Prince of Wales is meeting people who have been helped by his Homewards campaign

Prince William is being praised for the “compassion” and “empathy” he shows for the unhoused.

The challenges he has witnessed in his own life inform how he interacts with those who have experienced real hardship, according to a woman who lived on the streets when she was a teen and is now a successful fire chief.

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton recently spent time with the Prince of Wales, 42, at Windsor, introducing a longtime rough sleeper to him as an advocate and supporter of William’s Homewards program.

“One thing that the prince does know is trauma. You really see that coming through with the empathy and the compassion that he had when talking to those who’ve previously experienced homelessness,” she says.

“One thing that I noticed is that he is really, really passionate about the human impact of this,” Cohen-Hatton adds. “He doesn’t see [Homewards] as something to be the figurehead of, he really cares about the impact on people. I was really taken by how powerfully he wanted to help.”

Prince William, Prince of Wales during a visit to Bournemouth AFC's Vitality Stadium in Dorset

Her comments come as Prince William celebrates the one-year point in his ambitious five-year project to make homelessness “rare, brief and unrepeated.” The royal heir has been committed to the cause since he started his public life after university and was inspired by his late mother, Princess Diana, who took him and his brother, Prince Harry, to shelters, adopting Centrepoint was one of his first patronages.

Prince William’s spokesman says, “He knows it is an issue that is far too present in our society. He also firmly believes that change is possible. He launched Homewards to demonstrate that homelessness is not inevitable, and if we can come together to tackle the issue, it is possible for it to be ended.”

On the morning of July 11, Prince William will visit Lambeth in London, where he is meeting people from the six key areas of the United Kingdom where pilot plans are being put into place. He will spend time getting updates on the ambitious program and make a short speech. Lambeth — along with Sheffield, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in England, Newport in Wales, Northern Ireland and Aberdeen in Scotland — are the pilot areas for his mission. In each location, a coalition is tasked with finding answers that can be scaled up to be taken elsewhere around the U.K.

This year, they have laid the groundwork, as Liz Laurence, program director of Homewards at the Royal Foundation, said in a briefing on the initial 12 months. “Unprecedented levels of coalitions” have been created in each of the six areas, she adds. There are 11 industry-leading companies who provide expertise and support and they are shifting towards prevention in each of the areas.

Prince William, Prince of Wales during a visit to the East Belfast Mission

Other highlights of Laurence’s report card included convening 539 individuals and organizations across the six locations and innovative housing projects providing nearly 100 homes for those who are homeless or on the brink of experiencing homelessness.

The campaign hopes to change the narrative around it, helping remove the stigma. To that end, Prince William is set to appear in a two-part ITV documentary on the subject and a new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London will highlight the issue.

Prince William, Prince of Wales and Geri Halliwell are seen discussing ambition for Homewards

It is also using advocates like Hatton-Cohen. She praised his convening power, saying Prince William is “getting people sat around the table who have access to things that can be used as the solution. None of these people would ordinarily be sat around the table together and that is incredibly powerful. We all know it is going to take time, but more importantly, it is going to take people coming together — and that’s what the prince has helped us to do.”

She added that he “is the conductor that said we are going to close that sliding door so we can walk through this one. That is incredible.”

Prince William, Prince of Wales (L) poses for pictures with a member of the public as he is on his way to attend a Homewards Sheffield Local Coalition meeting at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield

As well as visiting some of the projects, such as in Sheffield and Bournemouth this year, the Prince of Wales has been following all of the work happening behind the scenes extremely closely, his aides say, and is in regular contact with the officials at his Royal Foundation about it.

“More and more people are being forced into homelessness, whether sofa surfing, squeezing into temporary accommodation or sleeping on the streets. Yet it is not inevitable. With the right approach and ambition, we can end it,” says Matt Downie, chief executive of the charity Crisis, which has partnered with Homewards.

“Homewards has already established strong foundations, forming wide-ranging local groups of organizations and individuals and focusing minds on measures to prevent people from becoming homeless,” he said. “Crucially, Homewards has sought to put people with lived experience at the heart of its work.”

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