Pink Floyd guitarist sets out goal of Urban Village for homeless

It is perhaps the most exclusive charity campaign ever launched, and only multi-millionaires need donate.

"Sell a house to create a home" was the description used by David Gilmour, who has done just that by offloading a £3.6m London property and putting the proceeds into a revolutionary method of keeping the homeless off the streets.

Now the Pink Floyd guitarist wants other celebrities to follow his example - although it helps if you have a spare mansion you can live without. Gilmour - Britain's 465th richest man - sold his Maida Vale mansion to Earl Spencer, Diana, Princess of Wales's brother, last year after moving to the countryside in Sussex.

"You can't live seriously in more than one house - everything else is just a holiday home," he said before givingthe money to the Urban Village project, which is run by Crisis, the charity for the homeless.

As details of his donation and the project were revealed yesterday, Gilmour, 56, called on other members of the Rich List élite to donate the additional millions needed for the project. "I don't know many celebrities, but I would certainly encourage them to do the same thing as me," he said. "Sell a house to create a home - that'd be good."

The Urban Village will mirror a housing scheme in New York, which has proved successful at rehabilitating homeless people in to mainstream society. It works by housing homeless people alongside workers such as nurses and teachers in communal blocks, helping both sets of people to find affordable accommodation in the city.

The previously homeless tenants are handed a life-long lease on their flats - as long as they keep up with the rent - and many are given jobs helping to maintain the building.

Support services such as drug rehabilitation are available on site, while retail companies are encouraged to set up shop in the block and employ residents.

The New York project was developed in a dilapidated art deco hotel in Times Square in 1990, after Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor at the time, launched his zero-tolerance campaign on rough sleepers in the city.

It houses 400 people and has helped trigger the regeneration of the square, which had become blighted by crime and prostitution.

The project's success is highlighted by its tiny eviction rate - less than one per cent.

"It is not just another housing scheme, it is a complete revolution in the way we try to help homeless people.

It is about reintegrating them into society, helping them back into work and giving them a home for life. It is about creating a new community," said Shaks Gosh, the director of Crisis.

"The Government has worked hard on getting homeless people off the streets, and we have now come to the end of an era when we had thousands of people sleeping rough.

"But the problem is that many of those people are still excluded from society, living in short-term hostels or B&Bs, with no jobs, no home to call their own and no contact with the working lifestyles of mainstream society.

"That is why this project is so different, and why it works. We don't have anything like this here, but David Gilmour's donation has kickstarted our attempt to do it [here]," she said.

Explaining his philanthropy, Gilmour - who is believed to be worth £75m - said: "A few years ago we [he and his wife Polly] moved to the countryside. We kept our great big house in London. About once every two weeks we would come back and rattle around in it.

"We talked about what we could do for the homeless. And we decided to sell it and give the money to Crisis. We saw details of this project and were inspired by it.

"What homeless people need is not just the soup-and-sandwich approach. They need a way to be drawn back into society and this seems to be the way forward."

Gilmour now has just his Sussex pile and a holiday home in Greece.

Crisis has yet to find a central London site for its Urban Village, but hopes to identify one that can be developed to house 400 people, 50 per cent of them homeless and the other half workers.

The charity estimates that there are around 400,000 "hidden homeless" in the UK, living in temporary hostels, B&Bs and squats.

Charitable Stars

ROBBIE WILLIAMS: Set up his 'Give It Sum' foundation three years ago, with the £2m he was paid to front a Pepsi commercial.

The fund is run by the Comic Relief charity and gives money to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, Unicef and projects in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent.

Williams, who recently signed an £80m record deal with EMI, has sold off his clothes, guitar and even his bed to raise funds for the charity.

JOHN DENSMORE: Drummer with The Doors, says John Lennon inspired him to give 10 per cent of all his earnings to charity.

Last year he increased that to 15 per cent, although he has not disclosed where the money goes - or how much it amounts to.

"If everybody gave 10 per cent, this world might recapture a bit of balance," he said. "According to my calculations, as one gets into the multi-millionaire category, you up the ante. When you get to multi-multi-, you should give away half each year."

GEORGE HARRISON: Established his 'Material World Foundation' in 1973, raising money, which went to charities for poor around the world.

The foundation was given all the royalties from nine of the eleven songs on his solo album Living in the Material World.

And it received millions more after Harrison's death in 2001, when his single 'My Sweet Lord' was re-released and went straight to number one.

GEORGE MICHAEL, SIR ELTON JOHN AND SIR CLIFF RICHARD: All have created charitable trusts through which they give money - and raise millions more from their friends.

Comments