Prince William: What the Prince of Wales told Sheffield during surprise Royal visit
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He visited along with England and Aston Villa footballer Tyrone Mings, who revealed he had been homeless himself before he made the grade as a footballer on the basis of having spent time ‘sofa surfing’, and has become an ambassador on the issue.
William arrived at the Reach Up Youth project, Burgreave and spent nearly an hour there, speaking to people who have been homeless themselves, people involved in tackling the problem locally, and those who volunteer or use the project, at the Verdon Centre. Neighbours said they had no idea the visit was due.
Arriving just before 4pm, William sat for a group discussion with officials including Sheffield Council chief executive Kate Josephs. He said homelessness was not just about people sleeping rough on the streets, but also those resorting to ‘sofa surfing’ because they did not have their own place.
He said he wanted to know how new ideas could tackle the problem, furthering work already being done in the city.
Safiya Saeed, who runs Reach Up Youth, then took William into the sports hall, to meet Sheffield artist Leigh Redhead, known as Trik09, who painted a mural there for the visit. Leigh told the prince it took three days to complete the work, carrying the slogan ‘alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’. He said William said he liked the work of art.
He joined youngsters, wearing red Reach Up Youth T-shirts, to play basketball, both William and England defender Mr Mings taking shots at the hoop. The prince found the target after several attempts, his shot on target met with cheers.
Moving outside, a barbecue had been set up. He met three ex-homeless people, helped by Reach Up, including Osei Gabriel Gyansah, who received help finding the right people to provide help through the project. William told Gabriel he thought his story gave others facing homelessness hope.
Prince William hopes to end homelessness with his new Homewards project.
Safiya said Reach Up was started in 2013 after violence in the area, to provide a go-to organisation for locals. She said William first became aware of its work when the Homeward visited them.
“We didn’t really know why they were here, but we later found out they were the organisation that Prince William is supporting.
"We help to prevent it (homelessness). We give education. We try to support if someone has come towards either homeless or about to become homeless and the issues behind that. It can be miscommunication with families, it can be exploitation, it can be by not having the correct family support or community support, it can be anything really. “
She said having the royal visit had not yet sunk in. She added: “It was amazing. Such a humble gentleman and he understood that we need to start cracking on by ending homelessness.
"It’s not what he said, but the way he listened. He absorbed young people’s stories. He understood that community organisations who are the grassroots of the community can make an influence.
"We all take care of each other really. He loved the sense of community and the vibe in the area.”