Prince William has called on society to be “a bit brave” and “crack homelessness” in the wake of the pandemic, saying there may never be as good an opportunity.
William, 38, visited a drop-in day centre for Peterborough’s homeless community on Thursday and spoke about how he hoped there would be long-term changes.
He 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.”
He later reflected on New York’s solution of buying up hotel rooms to house rough sleepers, with tourism expected to be down for some time, and added: “So there’s opportunities here, there really is, to do this and we’ve just got to be a bit brave and a bit bold to get it done.”
Father of three William has had a long term interest in raising awareness about homelessness, as his mother Diana took him to meet rough sleepers from a young age.
He became patron of Centrepoint in 2005, his first patronage, and last year he became royal patron of The Passage, which helps rough sleepers.
During the visit on Thursday, William also revealed a strange snack he once ate while hungover.
He was asked by Gary Griffiths, 55, if he had lost weight, to which he replied: “I’m worried now where you’re looking at, do I look like I’ve lost weight? Around the jowls maybe, have a lost a bit a weight up here, around the chin? Maybe lockdown hasn’t been quite so (bad).”
After the visit, Griffiths, originally from London, revealed: “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, after a bender’ which I thought was quite good, at least he’s human.”
The Duke of Cambridge also met Robert Smale, 55, who told him he’d ended up living in a tent for six years, after moving out following an amicable break-up.
Asked about what their hopes were, Smale told William: “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.”
Griffiths quipped: “You’re not going to take his arm off?” to which William said: “Gary was saying I was looking quite trim.”
Smale joked William was “too lean for me”, and William said “All skin and bone, that’s what I am”.
As the UK went into lockdown in mid-March, the government launched Everyone In, a scheme to give thousands of rough sleepers and night-shelter users somewhere to live and to self-isolate if they needed to.
Peterborough City Council, along with faith groups and the voluntary sector, housed 130 people after being contacted by the government.
At the end of June, the government committed more money to help stop rough sleepers returning to the streets.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has made £105million available to help rough sleepers and those at risk of losing their homes to secure their tenancies.
Kensington Palace said the duke had kept in touch with representatives from Centrepoint and The Passage during the lockdown.