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Prince William highlights homelessness by sleeping rough on London's streets

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Prince William highlights homelessness by sleeping rough on London's streets

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Prince William highlights homelessness by sleeping rough on London's streets Prince William highlights homelessness by sleeping rough on London's streets

Prince William spent a night sleeping rough on the streets of London to experience being homeless, it emerged today.

The royal bedded down in a sleeping bag next to a group of wheelie bins around Blackfriars bridge in the capital last week in an event organised by the homeless charity Centrepoint.

The organisation's chief executive Seyi Obakin slept next to the prince on their makeshift bed and said the "hairiest moment" came when they were almost run over by a road sweeper.

Writing on the Centrepoint website he added: "For me, it was a scary experience. Out of my comfortable bed. Out there in the elements. Out there on an extremely cold night, with temperatures down to minus 4.

"And it was the same for Prince William. But he was determined to do it as (Centrepoint) patron in order to raise awareness of the problem and to be able to understand a little better what rough sleepers go through night after night."

Here is how Seyi Obakin described his night on the tiles with Prince William:

"And so it was that on the eve of our 40th anniversary (on the night of 15th December 2009), I found myself accompanying Prince William and his private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, as we bedded down for the night on cardboard boxes around Blackfriars bridge, London. For me, it was a scary experience. Out of my comfortable bed. Out there in the elements. Out there on an extremely cold night, with temperatures down to minus 4C.

"And it was the same for Prince William. But he was determined to do it as Patron in order to raise awareness of the problem and to be able to understand a little better what rough sleepers go through night after night.

"We took as much precaution as possible – finding a relatively secluded spot in an alleyway, shielded partly by a collection of wheelie bins. But there was no shielding from the bitter cold, or the hard concrete floor, or the fear of being accosted by drug dealers, pimps or those out to give homeless people a 'good' kicking.

"One of the hairiest moments occurred when we were almost run over by a road sweeper which simply didn’t see our small group huddled together, which just goes to show how vulnerable rough sleepers are. I have never been happier to welcome the break of dawn!

"At dawn, Prince William and I walked with another colleague through some of the streets of the West End so he could see with his own eyes many of the ‘invisible’ men and women who are rough sleepers in the buzzing centre of London.

"Prince William understood, as I did, that what he experienced was but a fraction of what it means to be truly homeless and afflicted. He knew that a young homeless person who has to sleep rough will not then have in the morning the choices we had in Centrepoint’s Greek Street hostel – a warm shower, a change of clothes, a decent breakfast.

"Homeless young people often face terrible dependency problems with drugs or alcohol, mental illness, poverty, family breakdown and many other issues, all of which are experiences that we simply cannot begin to share after sleeping rough for just one night.

"But sleeping rough for the night brought home, as no ‘story-telling’ can possibly do, the nightmare and incredible vulnerability of being homeless night after night."

The prince - who in 2005 chose Centrepoint to be the first organisation to receive his patronage - has made a number of private visits to the charity.

His strong interest in its work was inspired by visits he made to its centres with his mother who also served as its patron.

The royal said that he hoped his experience sleeping rough would strengthen his efforts to help the charity.

He said: "I cannot, after one night, even begin to imagine what it must be like to sleep rough on London's streets night after night.

"Poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown cause people to become and then stay homeless.

"Centrepoint's work - along with many other organisations' - in tackling these fundamental causes is desperately important if we are ever to end homelessness in this country.

"I hope that by deepening my understanding of the issue, I can help do my bit to help the most vulnerable on our streets."

A St James' Palace spokeswoman said the prince was keen to raise Centrepoint's profile.

She added: "Prince William recognises that sleeping rough is only one part of a much larger problem for many homeless young people: drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poverty and mental illness all contribute to and sustain the problem of homelessness. Centrepoint, the charity of which he is patron, help tackle all those issues."

Photograph copyright: Centrepoint.

 

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