Prince William revealed that his mother’s commitment to the cause of the homeless 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 royals teamed up with veteran Big Issue salesman Dave Martin on Rochester Row, near Victoria, just days after the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to sell the magazine that supports homeless people across the country.
Writing in his latest issue, he explained how his connection to the charity began with his mother Princess Diana.
He said: “I was 11 years old when I first visited a homeless shelter with my mother, who in her own inimitable style was determined to clear up a forgotten and misunderstood problem.”
The prince said his time on the street was “truly eye-opening” but added that his experience was very different from most sellers, as the pair soon sold out several days worth of copies in less than an hour after onlookers spotted William at work.
He said: “I was lucky enough to join Dave on a hot, sunny day in June. People recognized a familiar face and were happy to give me the time of day. But that’s not the case for the vast majority of Big Issue vendors, who sell year-round – including during the bleak winter months – and barely get a second glance from passers-by.
” A hardworking, funny and cheerful man, Dave is the kind of person we should all actively encourage and support. Instead, people often just ignore it. And while The Big Issue provides a mechanism by which Dave can support himself, earn a living and – in his words – regain some self-respect, it’s up to us to do our part too. Because he can only succeed if we recognize him, see him and support him.”
The prince, who turns 40º birthday on Tuesday, admitted that he “might seem like one of the most unlikely advocates” for the homeless, but added: “I have always believed in using my platform to help tell these stories and bring attention and action to those who are struggling. I intend to do this now that I am turning 40, even more than I have in the past.
“So, for my part, I commit to continue doing what I can to highlight this solvable issue not just today, but for months and years to come.
And in the years to come, I look forward to bringing George, Charlotte and Louis to see the fantastic organizations doing inspiring work to support those most in need – just like my mother did for me.
“As she instinctively knew, and as I keep trying to point out, the first step in solving a problem is for everyone to see it for what it really is.”
Writing about visiting the homeless shelter with his mother at age 11, he wrote: “The Big Issue had been released just two years earlier, offering people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by selling a magazine to the public and providing a solution to the problems that have seen an increasing number of people on the streets of the country’s capital.
“In the more than 30 years that followed, I saw countless projects in this space grow and grow, including charities of which I was honored to be a Patron. New initiatives were launched across the country – some worked, some didn’t. But The Big Issue, perhaps now the most immediately recognizable of these organizations, undeniably had an impact. Its social business model has provided a means of making a living for 105,000 suppliers who have earned over £144 million.
Prince William selling The Big Issue in London
“Looking back helps us 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 an entrenched phenomenon over which we have little power. And there are worrying signs that things could soon get worse, as people feel the effects of higher prices and find it harder to survive.
“And while we can’t fix it all at once, I refuse to believe that homelessness is an irrevocable fact of life. It’s a problem that can be solved, but one that requires continued focus and a comprehensive support network.
“Fortunately, there are brilliant and compassionate people working tirelessly to support those who find themselves in this vulnerable position and provide opportunities when they are most needed.”
:: Read the full story in the latest issue of The Big Issue.