Homelessness becoming a bigger topic for royal wedding than dress or guests

Attempt to clear homeless from Windsor streets has created an outcry

By Keith Dunlap

Is this a coincidence, or what? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen the homeless organization Crisis as one of the seven charities to which wedding guests can make donations in lieu of wedding gifts.

And in recent months, homelessness has been a very talked-about issue in Windsor, the town where the wedding will take place.

One can argue it’s been a hotter topic than what dress Markle will wear or what guests will be invited, and the big day itself could lead to homelessness being out in the forefront more than ever imagined.

A Facebook-event called “Royal Sleepover” has been created, with more than 1,000 people responding, saying they will join homeless the night before the May 19 wedding, by resting in sleeping bags just outside Windsor Castle to support the transient population.

On the day of the wedding, another Facebook event called “No Jacket Required” has been created, where a people are encouraged to “come as you are” near the site of the wedding and protest homelessness.

On Twitter, more support is being directed toward the homeless with a #RoyalSleepover hashtag.

So, how did this firestorm get started? Let’s go back to just before the ball dropped to start 2018.

Simon Dudley’s crusade
In late December, Simon Dudley, the leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, stated that he was going to request that police clear the area of homeless people and beggars before the royal wedding in May.

 

Dudley suggested that police use their powers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which criminalizes sleeping on streets and begging.

On Jan. 2, Dudley wrote a letter to Anthony Stansfeld, the police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley saying that “homelessness is completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community such as ours,” that homelessness is a “voluntary choice” because the homeless are choosing to reject social services, and that the belongings of homeless people that are left on the street are posing security concerns.

This led to an angry backlash against Dudley.

Just two days later, Prime Minister Theresa May said she "did not agree" with Dudley’s stance, and Dudley ended up having to sweat through two unsuccessful votes of no-confidence that came against him in January and would have led to his ouster.

 

One was from his own group of Conservatives, which dubbed it a “back-him-or-sack-him motion."

The motion ultimately didn't sack him. 

A few weeks later, Dudley faced a vote of no-confidence within his own council at a special Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead meeting, which ultimately failed by a vote of 43-9.

Murphy James, of the Windsor Homelessness Project, was another person livid at Dudley’s stance, saying to The Guardian: “No one does this from choice. We shouldn’t be demonizing these people, but asking them what we can do to help.”

Dudley's request was ultimately withdrawn

Dudley tried to clear up his comments to the BBC, but that did little to quell the outcry. 

Cause emboldened
By the middle of February, 275,000 people had signed a petition urging that Dudley’s request to have the streets cleared of homeless people withdrawn.

Homeless people in Windsor became more inspired to stay as a result, with some pitching tents yards away from the wedding site, according to an article in the Daily Mail.

According to the story, one homeless person said, “At least I’ll have a front-row seat on the royal wedding. I won’t be moved.”

Recent government reports have stated that the number of homeless people in England has more than doubled since 2010.

It’s an issue that is of great concern to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, evidently, since they made it a focus of wedding donations.

Authorities might still do their best to clear away the streets and convince homeless people to find temporary housing at shelters or elsewhere.

But with so many on social media already pledging to be on hand the night before and the day of the wedding in support, homelessness might end up being the prominent theme of this royal wedding.

It might even make talk of what dress Markle will wear obsolete.

All images courtesy of Getty 

Graham Media Group 2018