The Prince of Wales has said the revelation that children as young as 13 are at risk of becoming homeless is “terrifying”, during a visit to a charity helping rough sleepers.
William questioned workers from Depaul UK, a charity supporting homeless young people for more than 30 years, and asked about the issues facing those without a bed for the night.
The future king, who supports a number of leading homeless charities, also met some of the organisation’s clients, with one saying it “saved my life” after substance abuse and debt.
Chatting to staff at Depaul’s offices in London, the prince asked “What age group are you seeing actual risk of homelessness starting?” and when told children aged “13 and upwards” had already suffered “relationship breakdowns” at home, he replied: “It starts so young, that’s terrifying.”
Diana, Princess of Wales was instrumental in teaching her sons William and the Duke of Sussex about the issue of homelessness, taking them to meet rough sleepers during the early 1990s when they were young schoolboys to broaden their horizons.
She visited Depaul UK three times during the early years of the charity and during her final event in 1995 opened the first Depaul Trust Hostel in Willesden in June 1995.
William is patron of the homelessness charities Centrepoint and The Passage and, last summer, became the cover star of the Big Issue magazine after he joined a vendor on the streets of London.
The prince told the Depaul UK staff: “So much about homelessness is (not) just about not having a house, there’s so much more to it.”
Depaul’s support services include emergency accommodation and longer term housing for homeless young people or those at risk of becoming rough sleepers or “sofa surfing”, and programmes enabling access to education and employment and to allow clients to manage their mental health and wellbeing.
It also delivers innovative prevention services from educational workshops in schools to family support and mediation.
William chatted to three former homeless people all helped by Depaul UK who spoke passionately about their experiences and described how – to their local authorities – they were not a “priority”, or struggled to access council services.
The trio used pseudonyms and Finn, 25, described how he tried to hold down a job as a baker while living in a hostel for a few weeks, where he did not feel safe and hardly slept before Depaul provided accommodation.
He said told future King: “You stigmatise yourself – you feel like you failed at living.”
Afterwards Lee, 27, praised the support he had received from the charity after he left the military “damaged” in 2016 and “turned to drugs and alcohol”.
But he received help for his mental health issues and now sees a counsellor to talk though “past traumas” and wants to work for Depaul UK.
He said: “It saved my life and I can say that openly. When you get in a position where you’ve got nobody, you got nothing, you’ve thousands of pounds worth of debt, you’re doing substances – what’s to live for?”