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William hopes to ‘ease pressure’ on councils tackling homelessness

The Prince of Wales hopes his ambitious project to eradicate all forms of homelessness in six UK locations eases the day-to-day “pressure” councils face so they can plan ahead.

William spoke about his Homewards initiative during a visit to Sheffield to learn how residents, landlords, the local authority and others are working together to help tackle the issue of those without a permanent home.

His trip focused on one of the cornerstone issues of his public work and came after footage emerged of the Princess of Wales out shopping at the weekend at a farm shop, after intense social media speculation about her whereabouts and health.

Kate, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, was seen with William at the Windsor Farm Shop close to their Adelaide cottage home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Prince of Wales visit to Sheffield
The Prince of Wales during a visit to a Homewards Sheffield Local Coalition meeting (Oli Scarff/PA)

William’s only reference to his wife came after a participant at one of his engagements on Tuesday mentioned the importance of the early years of childhood, prompting the prince to say: “Venturing into my wife’s territory here. She needs to be sat here to hear this.”

The prince was joined by housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa who called for an end to the “stigma” around homelessness and for the problem to be taken seriously by private landlords and local authorities.

At a community space in a disadvantaged area of Sheffield, the future king sat down with leading landlords working in the city and other organisations who all support Homewards.

He asked Ajman Ali, Sheffield City Council’s executive director: “Does something like Homewards allow you the space, if you like, to help in this area?

“Because bearing in mind with the council, you run so many things, (in) so many days, when do you ever get to lift your head up and actually get ahead of a lot of the problems that councils, all up and down the country, are always busily dealing with.

“I’m hoping that Homewards comes along (and can) lift that pressure off you, bring more people into the mix and allow you to then able to plan and see something further down the line.”

Homewards is a five-year project launched by William in 2023 to bring together a range of individuals and organisations to develop bespoke homelessness solutions in Newport, South Wales, three neighbouring Dorset towns, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch, the south London Borough of Lambeth, Belfast, Aberdeen and Sheffield.

The initiative was given a boost worth £1 million from DIY retailer Homebase whose chief executive officer Damian McGloughlin said he personally wanted to be involved in the project.

At the meeting he formally pledged up to 1500 Home Starter Packs, which could include paint, furniture, flooring and furnishings, to help tenants turn a property into a home.

Mr Tweneboa, who has campaigned for three years to raise awareness about homelessness and those living in sub-standard housing, said: “We know we’ve got enough homeless kids in England to entirely fill the O2 arena seven times over yet that is not enough to change things, change perspective really take on this crisis with a bottom up approach – which I fundamentally believe is social housing.

Prince of Wales visit to Sheffield
The Prince of Wales during a visit to a housing workshop at The Learning Zone in Sheffield (Temilade Adelaja/PA)

“Because when people are on the council waiting list, when they find themselves homeless it’s not because they’re waiting to got into private rented accommodation – they can’t afford that – they need social housing but it’s not there for them.”

William later arrived at the Millennium Gallery, in Sheffield city centre, where he joined a Homewards Sheffield Local Coalition meeting.

As he walked through the Winter Garden to the event, he was asked by royal fan Leigh Stinchcombe, 33, if he would stop for a photograph.

The prince offered to hold Mr Stinchcombe’s travel mug as he struggled to find the right mode on his phone for the royal snap before they eventually sorted the shot between them.

In the meeting, William joined one table where he listened to the stories of people who have been homeless and are now working to help others in the Sheffield area.

When one of the participants mentioned the importance of children’s early years, the prince held up his hands, smiled and said: “That my wife’s area. She needs to sit here.”

One man, Chris Lynam, 41, told the royal visitor how he left the Royal Navy with post traumatic stress disorder and this led him down a path of drug and alcohol addiction and, eventually, prison.

William told him: “Chris. Can I just say how brave you are to be here and talk about your story?”

Prince of Wales visit to Sheffield
The Prince of Wales is a campaigner for the homeless (Temilade Adelaja/PA)

Speaking after the visit, Mr Lynam, who works with the Sheffield-based Cathedral Archer Project for homelessness, said: “Wow. Not what I expected. He was really nice man and he really listens, which took me back a little. I liked him.”

He said: “The fact I was in the military as well. There are so many ex-military guys on my wing and in my prison.”

“That’s disgusting to me – ‘Thanks for you service now get lost’.”

The Homewards Sheffield Local Coalition has been convened over the past nine months by Homewards to create a shared vision for Sheffield and formulate a Local Action Plan towards ending homelessness in the city.

The group includes over 70 organisations, and members of the local community with lived experience of homelessness.