On his first official engagement of 2017 – visiting a Centrepoint hostel to learn more about projects including the Young and Homeless Helpline being campaigned for by The Independent – the Duke found himself playing a guessing game with a group of young people.
This entailed trying to guess the name of the celebrity written on sticky note stuck to his forehead – a task which involved Prince William, heir to the British throne, asking 22-year-old Sherihan Sharif: “Am I famous?”
Ms Sherihan, who has been supported by Centrepoint and is now studying for a BSc in Psychology, chose not to question Prince William’s sanity, but assured him that yes, he was famous. But once the Duke had worked out that he was a footballer, Sherihan – not a keen football fan – struggled over whether or not he was a striker.
Within a few questions, however, the Duke worked out that he was – temporarily – David Beckham, whom he knows well thanks to his role as president of the Football Association. Ms Sherihan was suitably quick at working out she was Usain Bolt, and afterwards said she found the Duke “quite funny”.
The game was part of a session at Centrepoint’s hostel in Ealing, west London, to help teach a group of young people how to prepare themselves for job interviews.
Since becoming patron of Centrepoint in 2005, the Duke has toured a number of the youth homelessness charity’s facilities and centres.
In 2009 he spent a night sleeping rough on the streets of London to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.
“He does things privately that he doesn't want Press about,” revealed Centrepoint’s chief executive Seyi Obakin. “He just wants to meet young people and talk to them, find out what is happening for them, find out what he can do to help. And he does that quietly.”
“Over the past decade,” he said in November, “I have met hundreds of courageous and inspiring young people trying to escape homelessness. Unfortunately, their courage alone is not enough.”
The helpline will provide a nationwide Freephone number allowing 16 to 25-year-olds facing homelessness to talk to advice workers and to be directed towards the most appropriate support services.
Because Centrepoint has joined forces with youth advisory charity The Mix on the project, the helpline will assist young people not just with immediate housing needs, but also with a whole range of issues that can often trigger homelessness like mental health problems or family breakdown.
It is also hoped the helpline will alleviate a situation where Centrepoint estimates that up to one in three young people seeking help because they are homeless or about to become homeless are turned away unaided by English local councils.
With Centrepoint analysis of YouGov polling suggesting that 56 per cent of young people wouldn’t know what help they were entitled to if facing homelessness, frontline staff and young people helped by the charity have said the helpline will be “a lifeline”.
The helpline is due to launch in February.
Mr Obakin said: “I'm expecting that the Duke will answer the first call to the helpline.”
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