Prince William believes you can have zero homelessness and he’s using Finland as a case study.
The Prince of Wales is launching a five-year, locally led plan in six flagship locations around the UK that will demonstrate it is possible to end homelessness, Kensington Palace announced on Monday.
The program, “Homewards,” will bring together “an unprecedented network of organisations and individuals,” tapping into their collective expertise to “create and deliver a tailored plan to prevent homelessness in their areas,” the palace said.
It will provide up to £500,000 ($637,000) of flexible seed funding in each of the six locations – which will be announced later this week – to support projects, and findings from the program will be used to create a model that can be used elsewhere across the UK and internationally.
“In a modern and progressive society, everyone should have a safe and secure home, be treated with dignity and given the support they need,” the Prince of Wales said in a statement Monday, marking the launch of his first big initiative as heir to the throne.
“Through Homewards, I want to make this a reality and over the next five years, give people across the UK hope that homelessness can be prevented when we collaborate.”
The project draws inspiration from Finland’s “Housing First” policy which unconditionally offers rental homes with contracts to people experiencing homelessness, as well as support if needed and wanted.
Finland’s successful homelessness policy “has been the leading example for a number of years,” Matt Downie, CEO of homeless charity Crisis told reporters. Its collaborative approach and “the whole of society committing for the long term” is key to its success, added a spokesperson for the Royal Foundation, the charity established by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Similarly, William said in an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times last week that he hopes to bring “all the wonderful people and pieces together of the puzzle.”
“And from that, we can then get other councils in other parts of the country to copy,” he added. “It’s about that momentum. So you go, ‘Right, we can fix this and we will fix this.’”
William was careful to stress that he wasn’t trying to interfere with government policy, saying that his plan “is an additive to what is already being done.”
His initiative will also focus on reframing the issue and improving understanding among the general public.
More than 300,000 people in the UK are affected by homelessness, research from the Royal Foundation found, though the number is likely to be larger given the number of people sofa surfing, living in cars, or staying in hostels or other types of temporary accommodation.
Over the next two days, William will travel to each of the six locations to formally kickstart the program.
William has long used his platform to spotlight homelessness, ever since his mother, Princess Diana, first took him to homeless shelters as a child.
“I was 11 when I first visited a homeless shelter with my mother, who in her own inimitable style was determined to shine a light on an overlooked, misunderstood problem,” he wrote in a piece last year published in The Big Issue, a magazine which offers employment opportunities to people in poverty.
He took up Princess Diana’s patronage of the homelessness charity Centrepoint in 2005, spent a night sleeping rough in temperatures that reached -4 degrees Celsius (24.8 degrees Fahrenheit) four years later, and spent two days volunteering with Centrepoint, helping young people directly with its accommodation services.
Last year, William attempted to go undercover on the streets of London and sell The Big Issue to “experience the other side and see what it was like to be a Big Issue vendor,” he wrote in the magazine afterwards.
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