The Duke of Cambridge visited the St. Vincents Centre in London earlier this week. It’s the first time he’s been back since he last visited in 1994 with his brother, Prince Harry and mother, the late Princess Diana.
His presence was to commemorate the revamped centre which was started in 1980 by the charity, The Passage. For the past 36 years, this charity has ran the St. Vincents Centre as a place for homeless people or those on the margins of society. It was, and still is there to help them transform their lives by providing resources to inspire, challenge and encourage them.
The Passage is responsible for running the UK’s largest support centre for the homeless and insecurely housed individuals. Since its founding, it’s helped over 100,000 people in crisis.
Iris Moore, a volunteer, was at the centre when the Duke first visited – and is still working there today. When she saw William, she remarked hat he had definitely grown. She asked him if he remembered that visit after which the Duke said he recalled looking around the centre.
The 87-year-old volunteer said she told William she had met him when he was a little boy and asked him if he remembered – to which the Duke said he recalled looking around the centre as a child. Looking back on the previous visit, Ms Moore said: “She (Diana) sat with all the homeless and the two boys, she wanted them to see a different way of life..”
The 87-year-old volunteer recalled how shy the two boys were during their last visit. But she said it was very special to her that William had returned for another visit: “I thought he looked very young, you felt you could talk to him.”
The revamped facilities boast a new restaurant, winter garden, training facilities and and medical unit. The Duke met with other volunteers and those who benefit from the services and resources the centre provides. While sitting in on a jewelry-making session, he was given a necklace for his wife and a bracelet for himself and Prince Harry. He said that Catherine would love the necklace, also adding: “It might get me some brownie points.”
He then attended a short reception and unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of the newly revised centre. Before unveiling the plaque, the Duke gave a short speech: “Since 1863 St Vincent’s Centre has been a beacon of hope in Westminster for those in need and on the margins of society.”
He continued: “For the last 36 years The Passage has been there for those who find themselves homeless, or at risk of homelessness. This Passage has helped an astonishing 100,000 people. The visit I made as a child to this place left a deep and lasting impression upon me. About how important it is to ensure that everyone in our society, especially the poorest, are treated with respect, dignity and kindness and given the opportunities to fulfil their potential in life.”
The Duke then thanked everyone involved with revamping the building and for the future of the charity, he finally revealed the plaque. Before leaving, he was presented with a framed photograph taken during his previous visit. The image was of he and his brother and mother. He appeared particularly touched to receive it, remarking on the t-shirts he and his brother were wearing.
Much like the late Princess Diana, Prince William is also an avid supporter of charities and schemes that support the homeless. He spent a night out on London’s streets back in 2009 to raise awareness about the issue. The event was organised by Centrepoint, a charity which he serves as patron.