William visits Aberdeen on UK tour supporting anti-homelessness project

The Prince of Wales praised healthcare workers during a visit to a community centre in Aberdeen as part of a whistle-stop tour around the UK to promote a five-year programme to prove it is possible to end homelessness.

William (pictured), known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, told nurses they were doing “amazing work” as he toured the Tillydrone Community Campus to take in the breadth of support services provided at the facility and discuss how early interventions can prevent people becoming homeless.

The Granite City campus is the only Scottish location to have been chosen to benefit from the Homewards project launched by the Royal Foundation of the Prince and Princess of Wales this week to demonstrate what can be achieved by a mix of groups making a collective effort to prevent homelessness in their area.

Other locations picked to participate in the programme include Belfast, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Lambeth and Sheffield.

During his half-hour tour around Tillydrone, William talked to members of Homewards’ initial local coalition including Aberdeen City Council, independent living charity Aberdeen Foyer, social care provider Turning Point Scotland and the Centre for Homelessness Impact.

Speaking to nurses working in a health unit set up at the facility, William asked a series of questions relating to how its services helped efforts to support people before they ended up reaching a point they could become homeless for health reasons.

“You guys have been chosen for a reason,” he told them. “You’ve got ambition, you’re doing amazing work and we want to help what you’re doing.

“It’s not just about a person sleeping in the street – support services are crucial.”

He also emphasised the importance of sharing examples of good working practices found to prevent homelessness across all six locations chosen to participate in the programme to achieve its ultimate aim of eradicating homelessness.

“It’s all about areas doing good things and then putting all six together – that’s the big tick,” he said.

Graeme Gardner, housing access and support manager with Aberdeen City Council, said afterwards: “The prince was interested in getting to the underlying causes of homelessness – not just looking at people presenting as homeless, but what we can do in communities to prevent homelessness ever happening.

“Our nurses talk to people about their health and can bring them back and get them involved in services and do some treatment.

“They’re also co-located with our alcohol and drugs services and we’re also talking about developing a project to trial ways of getting GPs to spend more time with people who have experienced trauma.

“It’s about getting to those underlying causes of ill health that could manifest itself in homelessness.”

Towards the end of his tour William also met members of a local arts group who regular meet at the hub, chatted with young children playing air hockey and table tennis in the games room and joined in a fun storytelling and singing session with toddlers in the library.

Lord-Lieutenant Dr David Cameron, who was the first to welcome the prince to Tillydrone during his midday visit, said: “We are honoured that our city has been selected as one of only six Homewards locations that will demonstrate, over the next five years, that together homelessness can be ended.

“I was honoured to welcome Prince William to Tillydrone Community Campus today to meet with local residents who will ultimately benefit from The Royal Foundation’s Homewards project over the next five years.

Angela Scott, chief executive of Aberdeen City Council, said: “I am delighted that today Aberdeen commits to showing it is possible to end homelessness by joining this transformative project.

“We are excited to be the only Scottish location and to help lead the journey to ending homelessness here and across the UK.

“Through the programme we will aim to achieve a greater understanding of homelessness within Aberdeen from both residents and professionals’ perspectives, which will help to break down barriers and ensure there is a willingness to have discussions about housing difficulty.”

Earlier, William was cheered by well-wishers as he arrived at Skainos, a community centre in east Belfast where he heard from representatives from the East Belfast Mission about their work to tackle homelessness and about their new housing development 240.

He also met refugee Mehrshad Esfandiari from Iran who used the services, and now owns his own home.

Mr Esfandiari became homeless in Belfast after his asylum application was processed and he had to leave his Government-provided accommodation.

“Leaving my country was not a choice, circumstance forced me to go because I was in danger,” he said.

“It was a great honour for me to speak with the Prince of Wales and share how East Belfast Mission provided me with a safe place to live along with support to develop language skills and gain recognised qualifications in this country.

“As a result, I have been in full-time employment for several years now and have just bought my first home. I am an active member of several community groups such as Larne House Visitors Group and chairperson of Belfast City of Sanctuary, a charity with an ethos of welcome and support for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers living here.”

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