By Lee Mannion
LONDON, Feb 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's Prince Harry and fiancée Meghan Markle visited a cafe in Scotland on Tuesday dedicated to helping the homeless, highlighting the growing number of businesses striving to tackle social problems as lawmakers backed a new housing policy.
The couple, whose wedding is scheduled for May, were in Edinburgh visiting Social Bite, a social enterprise that runs five cafes and distributes food to the homeless.
Although government numbers last year showed the number of households classified as homeless - which can refer to an individual, a couple or a family - had dropped 32 percent in a decade to 28,000, campaigners said more must be done.
"It is simply wrong that in the last six months in Scotland on average a household lost their home every 18 minutes," said Graeme Brown, director of homeless charity Shelter in Scotland.
The royal visit came a day after the cross-party Local Government and Communities Committee recommended the government implement a policy targeting homelessness.
The policy, known as Housing First, has been piloted in parts of Scotland. It puts homeless people into secure accommodation before addressing health or employment issues.
Homeless people currently progress through temporary accommodation in hostels or night shelters.
In Finland a similar policy cut homelessness 40 percent between 2008 and 2012. The 170 million euros ($210 million) cost funded affordable rented housing and support services.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart welcomed the committee's report, and told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email that the government had committed 50 million pounds ($69 million) to fund homelessness prevention schemes over five years.
Social Bite, some of whose staff were once homeless, offers free food to the homeless, and uses profits to fund secure tenancies in the Housing First model and to build houses.
Social Bite used the royal visit to launch its own Housing First campaign. It will use some of the 4 million pounds ($5.6 million) raised by 9,000 people who slept out in an Edinburgh park in December to help 500 people into housing over 18 months.
Entrepreneurs using businesses to help tackle social problems are emerging across the globe - improving communities, breaking the cycle of re-offending, solving education issues and reducing isolation amongst elderly.
Queen Elizabeth's grandson, fifth-in-line to the throne, and Markle, who starred in U.S. TV legal drama "Suits", announced their engagement last year. Their marriage is scheduled to take place on May 19 in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.
(Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion. Editing by Robert Carmichael.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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