Prince William speaks for first time of ‘eye opening’ experience selling Big Issue on streets of London

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Prince William speaks for first time of ‘eye opening’ experience selling Big Issue on streets of London
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Prince William has revealed his mother’s commitment to the cause of homelessness inspired him to take to the streets of London selling the Big Issue – and said he wants to set the same example for his children.

The royal joined veteran Big Issue seller Dave Martin in Rochester Row, near Victoria, just days after the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to sell the magazine that supports homeless people across the country.

Writing in its latest issue, he explained how his connection with the charity began with his mother Princess Diana.

He said: “I was 11 when I first visited a homeless shelter with my  mother, who in her own inimitable style was determined to shine a light on an overlooked, misunderstood problem.”

 (PA)
(PA)

The Prince said his time on the street was “truly eye-opening” but added his experience was very different to most vendors as the pair soon sold several days worth of copies in under an hour after curious passers-by spotted William at work.

He said: “I was lucky to join Dave on a warm, sunny day in June. People recognised a familiar face and were happy to give me the time of day. But that isn’t the case for the vast majority of Big Issue vendors, who sell year-round – including through the bleak winter months – and are barely given a second glance by passers-by.

” A hardworking, funny, joyful man, Dave is the kind of person we should all be actively encouraging and supporting. Instead, people often just ignore him. And while The Big Issue provides a mechanism by which Dave can provide for himself, earn a living and – in his words – regain some self-respect, it is reliant on us playing our part too. Because he can only succeed if we recognise him, we see him and we support him.”

 (Andy Parsons)
(Andy Parsons)

The Prince, who celebrates his 40th birthday on Tuesday, admitted he “may seem like one of the most unlikely advocates” for the homeless but added: “I have always believed in using my platform to help tell those stories and to bring attention and action to those who are struggling. I plan to do that now I’m turning 40, even more than I have in the past.

“So, for my part, I commit to continue doing what I can to shine a spotlight on this solvable issue not just today, but in the months and years to come.

And in the years ahead, I hope to bring George, Charlotte and Louis to see the fantastic organisations doing inspiring work to support those most in need – just as my mother did for me.

“As she instinctively knew, and as I continue to try and highlight, the first step to fixing a problem is for everyone to see it for what it truly is.”

Princess Diana visited The Passage with her young sons William and Harry in 1993 (Courtesy of The Passage)
Princess Diana visited The Passage with her young sons William and Harry in 1993 (Courtesy of The Passage)

Writing about the visit to the homeless shelter with his mother as a 11-year-old he wrote: “The Big Issue had launched just two years before, offering people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by selling a magazine to the public and providing a solution to the issues that saw a growing number of people on the streets of the nation’s capital.

“In the 30-odd years since, I’ve seen countless projects in this space grow from strength to strength, including charities of which I have had the honour of being Patron. New initiatives have been launched up and down the country – some have worked, some have not. But The Big Issue, perhaps now the most immediately recognisable of these organisations, has undeniably had an impact. Its social business model has provided a means of making a living to 105,000 vendors who have earned over £144 million.

Prince William selling The Big Issue in London

“Looking back helps us to see how far we’ve come, but problems are fixed in the present. And despite all the progress, homelessness is still seen by many as some entrenched phenomenon over which we have little power. And there are worrying signs that things might soon get worse as people feel the effects of higher prices and find it harder to make ends meet.

“And although we can’t fix all of that at once, I refuse to believe that homelessness is an irrevocable fact of life. It is an issue that can be solved, but that requires a continued focus and comprehensive support network.

“Thankfully there are brilliant, compassionate people working tirelessly to support those that find themselves in that vulnerable position and to provide opportunity when it is most needed.”

:: Read the full story in the latest edition of The Big Issue.

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