Prince William’s visit to London’s Centrepoint housing charity this week showed that for all the recent changes in royal life – including his growing seniority – his commitment to a special cause remains unchanged.
In fact, her dedication to the issue of homelessness seems to reflect her need to continue the work started by her late mother.
On Tuesday, the Prince of Wales attended the opening of Reuben House, a new independent living project set up by the charity.
William admitted that Diana, who was patron of Centrepoint after her divorce from Charles, would be disappointed that, decades later, homelessness remains a major problem.
Princess Diana took young Princes William and Harry with her on visits to homeless shelters to show them the reality of life on the streets.
Prince William continued his mother’s work and attended the opening of Centrepoint’s Reuben House in London
Prince William’s continued dedication to helping end homelessness seems to reflect an aching need to finish the work started by his late mother.
Princess Diana saw her sons William and Harry visit homeless charities such as The Passage (pictured) as an important part of their education.
The Prince of Wales has now made homelessness a central focus of his public work, which serves as a poignant tribute to his mother’s memory.
Speaking on Channel 5’s Diana: Queen of Hearts, according to royal biographer Andrew Morton, ‘She didn’t want the boys to grow up thinking the whole world was 4×4 Range Rovers, shotguns and nannies?’
They visited homelessness charity The Passage together in 1993, which William said ‘showed me another part of society that I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to’.
Speaking on the Listen Up podcast, he added: ‘It sparked interest at the time, because the kind of characters I met were incredible, they were great people.
‘And the stories, although, obviously, it was kept quite light for me at that age, gradually as my interest deepened and I spent more time talking to people, I always came away very inspired. That’s what I heard.’
He became known for his numerous visits to shelters, leaving Kensington Palace one night to visit homeless people who had found a bed in the parish hall of Westminster Cathedral.
Many of the residents initially did not recognize the princess, who arrived unannounced at 11pm wrapped in a heavy black coat and left just before midnight.
Diana talks to a young homeless man at a Centrepoint homeless hostel during a visit to the center in 1997.
In 1996 she joined Prince William during a visit to a Centrepoint Hostel in London’s Soho
He was pictured speaking to young people at the launch of the new development, which forms a key part of the strategy to tackle youth homelessness.
The Princess became a patron of Centrepoint in 1992 and it was one of a handful of charities for which she maintained her position after her divorce.
In addition to his association with The Passage, he was also a regular visitor to DePaul UK, a homelessness charity dedicated to supporting young people, and opened the first DePaul Trust Hostel in Willesden in June 1995.
Taking her sons on her tours was seen by the princess as an important part of their education, and her dedicated charity work made a clear impression on William and Harry.
Former BBC Royal Correspondent Jenny Bond told Channel 5: ‘I think both boys were very appreciative of what their mum did, they saw her take on causes that were not fashionable and very difficult and I think now they’re really involved with charity. In the institution they can get.’
Continuing his mother’s work, Prince Harry visited Lesotho in 2004 and met AIDS orphans, much like Diana did 20 years earlier, and in 2019 he retraced his mother’s steps by walking through the former minefields where she walked in 1997.
Meanwhile, William has taken over Diana’s role as patron of Centrepoint, as well as patron of The Passage, more than 25 years after her first visit.
But efforts to empathize with the struggles of life on the streets went further than the royal title, and in December 2009 she spent a night sleeping rough in London, accompanied by Centerpoint chief executive Seyi Obakin.
Speaking to the Mail at the time, Mr Obakin said: ‘William asked if there was anything he could do to help our young people understand what they were going through.
Prince William spent a night sleeping rough with Centerpoint CEO Sei Obakin in December 2009.
He was pictured speaking to young people during a visit to homelessness charity Centrepoint in 2005.
William was made patron of the Centrepoint – a post previously held by his late mother – in September 2005. She is pictured in the kitchen at a Centrepoint hostel in 2006
Prince William is spotted dancing with Vanessa Boateng as Kate smiles as she visits Centrepoint
At the Winter Whites Centerpoint Gala in 2013, Prince William joined Taylor Swift and Jon Bon Jovi to sing.
‘I thought on my feet and came up with things I thought he would probably do more or less. To my surprise she said yes. We took as much precaution as we could – finding a relatively secluded spot in an alleyway, partly protected by a collection of wheelie bins.’
Dressed in jeans, trainers, a hooded sweatshirt and beanie hat, William looked unrecognizable as he laid a piece of cardboard on the floor and climbed into his sleeping bag as the pair stayed outside in temperatures of minus 4 degrees.
William, then 27, later said in a statement: ‘I, after one night, can’t even imagine what it would be like to sleep rough night after night on the streets of London.’
Yet he continued his efforts to engage with the experiences of those living on the streets, and more than ten years later, he went undercover as a big issue vendor on the streets of London.
He sold 32 copies of the magazine and wrote a candid essay explaining why he wanted to shine a light on homelessness on his 40th birthday by posing for a special edition of the publication.
William said of his experience selling magazines last year: ‘People recognized a familiar face and were happy to give me the time of day. But this is not the case with most Big Issue sellers…
‘And while I may seem like one of the most unlikely advocates for this cause, I’ve always believed in using my platform to tell those stories and bring attention and action to those who are struggling. I plan to do this now that I’m 40, even more than in the past.
Since then she has made undercover visits to homeless centers, helping prepare meals and chatting with residents, as well as speaking out publicly about the issue.
Prince William joined Big Issue seller Dave Martin (right) to sell copies of the magazine in London last year.
He sold 32 copies of the magazine and wrote a candid essay explaining why he wanted to shine a light on homelessness on his 40th birthday.
William said of his experience selling magazines last year: ‘People recognized a familiar face and were happy to give me the time of day. But this is not the case with the vast majority of Big Issue sellers…’
According to the Telegraph, the Prince is preparing to launch a homelessness project in time for his 41st birthday and has discussed the issue in meetings with Sir Keir Starmer and Michael Gove.
Even before his father became king, he is also said to have considered housing homeless people on property formerly owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.
Working with the charity Groundswell for a short film on BBC One for Red Nose Day, he said of his late mother: ‘I think she would be disappointed that we are still not further along in tackling and preventing homelessness than she was. was interested and engaged in it.’
The Prince of Wales has vowed to educate his children about the plight of the homeless, just as he and his brother were taught by their own mother.
Speaking to Dame Mary Berry for her Christmas special at Berry Royal Christmas in 2019, she said Prince George and Princess Charlotte would ask: ‘Why can’t they go home?’
He explained at the time: ‘School is already going on, remember they’re six and four, whenever we see someone sleeping rough in the street, I talk about it and I point it out and I explain why and they’re all very interested. They’re like: “Why can’t they go home?”.’
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