Prince William was stunned to find out a homeless charity is having to support children from the age of just nine.
The Prince of Wales, 40, visited Depaul UK in London – which was opened by his mother more than 30 years ago – to meet those who receive help from the charity, as well as staff working there.
It was a poignant visit, as he follows in the footsteps of his mother Princess Diana who visited the charity several times in 1990, 1993 and 1995.
Diana opened the first Depaul Trust Hostel in Willesden in June 1995.
The future king, who supports a number of leading homeless charities, also service users at the charity, with one saying it ‘saved my life’ after they suffered substance abuse and debt.
Prince Harry, who has launched a series of scathing attacks on his brother William in his memoir, Spare, has also held the charity close to his heart and made visits there.
Prince William attended Depaul UK this morning, 30 years after his late mother Princess Diana began working with the charity
While speaking with staff at the London headquarters, William asked: ‘What age group are you seeing actual risk of homelessness starting?’
The team told him they have helped children from ’13 and upwards’ who have already suffered with ‘relationship breakdowns’ at home. The charity has been known to support children even younger than 13, with some people asking for help as young as nine.
Startled by the response, William replied: ‘It starts so young, that’s terrifying.’
William’s visit comes in the wake of Prince Harry’s attacks on his brother and sister-in-law, Kate in his bombshell memoir, Spare – as the Duke finds himself dragged into a diplomatic row over Iran’s execution of a British-Iranian national.
Princess Diana first visited the charity in 1990 (pictured on one of her many visits) where she worked with homeless people
Prince Harry, who has launched a series of scathing attacks on his brother William in his memoir, Spare, has also held the charity close to his heart (pictured visiting in 2017)
Despite an almighty fallout from his brother’s memoir, Prince William looked composed on his visit to Depaul UK this morning, following Kate’s first solo outing yesterday since the book was released.
Last year the Daily Mail revealed that William had vowed to make the issue of homelessness in the UK a key priority of his public work.
He is patron of Centrepoint homeless charity and in 2020 revealed that he talks to his older children Prince George, now eight, and Princess Charlotte, now seven, about the issue of homelessness.
Speaking to Mary Berry for her Christmas special A Berry Royal Christmas, he said: ‘On the school run already, bear in mind they’re six and four, whenever we see anyone who is sleeping rough on the streets, 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?”
Prince William, who has made homelessness one of his main priorities as a royal, appeared in good spirits today
The Prince of Wales chatted with clients as he visited the youth homelessness charity in London earlier today
In 2019, William became the patron of The Passage, an organisation established in 1980 which has gone on to help more than 135,000 people in crisis through its resource centre, homelessness prevention projects and innovative accommodation services.
Diana first took the royal and his brother the Duke of Sussex to the charity in 1993, when the pair were young boys, and William has gone on to make numerous public and private trips to the organisation.
Speaking today about Diana’s legacy, Depaul UK CEO Mike Thiedke said: ‘She was so passionate about [people] falling through the cracks of a system. I think that upset her a lot whether she engaged with homeless people, or with people who were HIV positive.
‘And it seems that her sons have stepped into this.
‘I think having a principal in here now shows us that that seems to be something that is consistent. When you have the influence and power to change narrative and obviously, Prince William has that with the foundation behind him.
‘There’s a real understanding, I know that he is very close to other homelessness organisations as well, and that understanding of needing to change the narrative.’
During today’s visit, education coordinator Rebecca Baines told William: ‘Some of the big issues that we face with young people is that when they think of homelessness they think of rough sleeping, so a lot of young people may be experiencing it but they might not realise it; sleeping on couches, staying with friends where they can, so it’s all about education, because a lot of young people won’t reach out before it is far too late.
Figures last year showed there were 120,000 young people and children either at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness throughout the country.
Nicola Harwood, executive director of services, added: ‘From our family mediation services we are seeing children as young as nine or ten we are trying to support through addressing those issues at home before they escalate, before it ends up needing support from support from social services, so there’s quite a big age gap.’
The Prince of Wales also met former soldier Lee, 27, who left the British Army in 2016 and quickly spiralled into a life of drink and drugs after losing his mum and home.
He praised the work of the outreach ‘Pathfinder’ programme in Manchester which he says ‘undoubtedly saved my life’.
‘I honestly don’t know where I would be now,’ he added.
‘My goal is to work for Depaul and pay them back for the support I received.’
Another youngster who uses the service, Finn, 25, said of the Prince: ‘I felt like he was engaged. I felt like he was listening.
‘I really hope good things come about from this like more representation upon homelessness. I hope if he speaks publicly he could help reduce, or at least address, the stigmatism towards homeless people’.
In December 2009, a then 27-year-old Prince William spent a night sleeping rough to understand the plight of the homeless at Christmas.
He arrived shortly before midnight and stayed out in temperatures as low as minus 4C (24F), lying in a central London alleyway surrounded by wheelie bins.
The second in line to the throne was accompanied by his right-hand man at St James’s Palace, former SAS officer Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, one of the Scotland Yard police protection officers who accompany him everywhere and Seyi Obakin, chief executive of Centrepoint.
Dressed in jeans, trainers, a hooded sweatshirt and beanie hat, he went unrecognised as he laid a piece of cardboard down on the floor and climbed into his sleeping bag.
It wasn’t an altogether new experience for former Army officer William, who has often lived rough on exercises. But it certainly wasn’t a pleasant one, as temperatures plunged, making sleep almost impossible.
After sleeping fitfully, William rolled up his sleeping bag at 6am and walked through the streets for 45 minutes, stopping to talk to several homeless people on the way.
In 2020 revealed that he talks to his older children Prince George, now eight, and Princess Charlotte, now seven, about the issue of homelessness
The Prince of Wales looked professional as he met with staff and service users at Depaul UK in London
William, 40, is said to be focusing on the issue of homelessness as one of his priorities
He went to Centrepoint’s hostel in Greek Street, Soho, where he showered before cooking breakfast for some of the residents and cutting a cake to celebrate the charity’s 40th anniversary.
He was slightly better off than the average rough sleeper, as he was accompanied by his armed personal protection officer, his private secretary – a former SAS officer – and the chief executive of the homelessness charity.
Even the venue, a secluded spot close to Blackfriars Bridge in the City, was carefully chosen for safety.
The Duke said afterwards that the experience had helped to deepen his understanding of life on the streets.
Depaul UK, which operates in London and the South East, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and the North East specialises in supporting young people.
It helps its users find medium-to-long term accommodation, offers various programmes to help them into work and provides mental health support.
William’s visit came as new IPSOS polling showed that William and his wife, Kate, were Britain’s most popular royals (61 per cent and 60 per cent respectively). A further 68 per cent think he will make a good king.
Prince Harry’s favourability had slumped to 23 per cent from a high of 70 in 2018, when he and Meghan married.
Further polling for Newsweek showed that Meghan was now less popular than the Queen Consort in US with a minus 18 net approval rating compared to minus eight for Camilla.
The figure is a dramatic slump for the Duchess of Sussex who enjoyed a plus 23 rating in early December, before the Sussexes Netflix series and Harry’s tell-all memoir on the Royal Family, both of which have proved commercial successes but widely condemned.
Following a claim in his memoir that he killed around 25 Taliban fighters while serving in Afghanistan, the Iranian regime used the comments to justify its hanging of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari, 61, at the weekend.
Iran’s foreign ministry posted on Twitter that the UK was ‘in no position to preach’ on human rights after Harry’s comments.
Iran murdered Alireza Akbari after he was accused of being an MI6 spy.
Following Harry’s claims, senior army officials have slammed the Duke as a ‘stupid boy’.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former UK military commander in Afghanistan, said: ‘Harry should take full responsibility for giving ammunition to the murderous Iranian regime’s propaganda machine.
‘While all decent people will reject Iran’s lies, many of their supporters will be strengthened by the ayatollahs’ exploitation of the duke’s ill-judged comments.’
Meanwhile the Duke continued his attacks on his family this weekend as he demanded they apologise to his wife, Meghan.
Diana made a number of visits to the homeless charity throughout her life, including in 1990 (pictured)
Meanwhile the Princess of Wales also opened a branch of the youth charity in Willesden in the nineties (pictured)
In an interview with the Telegraph, he sent a message to the royals urging them to ‘come clean’ as he told them: ‘You know what you did.’
Harry also said he wanted to help reform the monarchy so that his niece and nephews, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis would not be affected by the concept of the ‘spare’ in the same way he has been.
After expressing concern that one of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s children may end up also feeling like the ‘spare’, he claimed Prince William had ‘made it very clear that the children are not [Harry’s] responsibility’.
Despite several bombshell claims in his memoir, Harry has also revealed the first draft of the autobiography was twice the length of the final draft, but that he ended up leaving details out for fear that his family would not forgive him.
Talking about his family, he said: ‘I wish you’d actually sit down with me, properly, and instead of saying I’m delusional and paranoid, actually sit down and have a proper conversation about this, because what I’d really like is some accountability. And an apology to my wife.
‘Because you know what you did, and I now know why you did it. And you’ve been caught out, so just come clean, and then we could all move on.’