We were delighted to welcome His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, to our London offices last week, where he met several of our staff and some of the inspirational young people we’ve recently supported.
The Prince of Wales has vowed to make tackling the root causes of youth homelessness a key theme of his public work this year, and we’re honoured he’s started this critical work with a visit to Depaul UK.
William’s mother, Princess Diana, visited Depaul UK in 1990, 1993, and 1995, and we hope His Royal Highness will continue to support our work in the years ahead.
Mike Thiedke, Depaul UK’s CEO, greeted the Prince and showed him around the head office in Southwark. His Royal Highness shook hands with and spoke to several members of staff about our emergency services, prevention, education, training, and employment work.
Afterward, Prince William sat down with a group of young people to hear about their experiences of homelessness, and to discuss the changes that need to be made to help more young people access support quickly.
Mike said “We were thrilled to have Prince William visit us, especially since his late mother, Princess Diana, had such a strong connection to us in the past.
“He has such a calm and assuring presence and made everyone feel comfortable. It was great to see how knowledgeable he was about the issue.
“I was so impressed with our young people, and how honest and open they were to share their stories confidently.”
“I also managed to pin a Depaul badge to Prince William’s suit jacket, which I hope he forgets to take off and wears forever.”
His Royal Highness met Ruth, 25, who found herself homeless and sleeping rough after her University course ended. Ruth, now in safe accommodation and studying for a Dphil at Oxford University, said: “It was really nice to see someone in Prince William’s position wanting to hear and speak to organisations on the ground. He seemed very interested and I could see that he was thinking on the spot about what could be done.
“My main point to Prince William was that anyone can become homeless. All of our stories are very different. I went from studying for a masters to homelessness overnight, but there are organisations that can help you. That was something I really wanted to communicate.”
His Royal Highness also met Lee, who received support from Pathfinders, a preventative service in Manchester designed to reach at-risk young people before it’s too late.
Lee said: “It was quite a surreal experience. He (Prince William) was a lot more down to earth than I thought he would be. We talked about the system. How young people going through homelessness are not a priority, and he took it on board.
“I told him it’s important to shine a spotlight on the reasons why children become homeless, what happens in the run-up to young adults becoming homeless. I think the spotlight should be on prevention, and I feel like he is going to try to make a change.”
Shenez Gordon, who is responsible for Depaul UK’s employability programme, Steps to Success, also spoke to His Royal Highness, alongside other members of staff. She said: “It was lovely speaking to him and he showed a real interest in what we do, as well as in the wider issues of homelessness.
“We discussed the different reasons people come to our services and the different types of homelessness. We talked about a young person’s journey, from being identified at schools and other services, to accessing housing support, developing their skills, and securing work.”
Rebecca Baines, Education Officer, shared information with Prince William about the vital work the education team is doing.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to someone with influence about the important work we are doing, and the opportunities it might present in the future.
“We talked about how important it is to identify at-risk children in the school system and ensure they have access to services that can help prevent homelessness in the future.”
Nicola Hardwood, Head of Nightstop UK, Depaul’s emergency accommodation service, said: “Prince William showed a real interest in finding a variety of solutions to end youth homelessness, and seemed to understand the need for varied approaches, and the need to meet each young person’s individual need. In particular, we talked about his clear interest in mental health and well-being and the importance of addressing that as early as possible.”
It’s with great thanks to His Royal Highness for meeting our staff and the young people we’ve supported, and helping to highlight homelessness and young people. We do hope he’ll continue to wear the Depaul badge and continue to support our work for years to come.