CEO of Catholic homeless centre praises Prince William’s ‘authentic’ bid to follow in Diana’s footsteps

The CEO of a London Catholic charity has praised Prince William’s ‘authentic’ bid to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Mike Clarke, who heads The Passage Day Centre adjacent to Westminster Cathedral singled out Prince William for the genuineness of his efforts over the years to rase awareness around homelessness.

“He is not some Johnny-come-lately,” Mike told The Sunday Mirror. “He has been involved with us for years, talking to people here, helping as a volunteer, and he gets it.”

The prince first began visiting The Passage as a youngster, and is now the centre’s patron.

He is said to have told his late mother about his mission during a heart-to-heart as a child, where he reportedly told her: “If I become King, I will let the homeless live in our palaces.”

The Passage, the homeless shelter that meant so much to Diana, was founded by Basil Hume, who arrived in London from his North Yorkshire monastery in 1981 to become the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. In the evenings, when he left Westminster Cathedral he would see countless homeless people bedding down for the night. The cardinal told colleagues he could not bear the thought of going home to a warm bed while others stayed out in the cold.

So he turned to the nuns living nearby to help set up The Passage, where people without anywhere to go could get advice, some food, and a bed for the night. Some years later, Diana visited, searching for a cause that would match her desire to help those forgotten and cast aside by society. She would later bring her sons along with her, which helped inspire William’s project Homewards and set him off following in his mum’s footsteps.

Homewards will bring businesses, charities and government together in six UK locations, and will try to find new ways to tackle homelessness, which affects more than 300,000 people on the street, sofa surfing or in unsuitable accommodation.

“Our clients who are homeless can suss who is authentic – and they see that he is,” said Mr Clarke.

“[During there covid pandemic] He was out delivering meals, but was masked up so people didn’t always realise it was him.

“It was that seismic event, when so many different organisations worked together, that really convinced the Prince more could be done through collaboration.”

Launching his Homewards project last week, Prince William said: “In a modern and progressive society, everyone should have a safe and secure home, be treated with dignity and given the support they need.

“Through Homewards, I want to make this a reality and over the next five years, give people across the UK hope that homelessness can be prevented when we collaborate.

“I’m fortunate to have seen first-hand the tireless work of people and organisations across the sector, the tangible impact their efforts can have and what can be done when communities are able to focus on preventing homelessness, rather than managing it.

“It’s a big task, but I firmly believe that by working together it is possible to make homelessness rare, brief and unrepeated and I am very much looking forward to working with our six locations to make our ambition a reality.”

Story by William Kelly, The Catholic Network