LONDON, England, 22 Dec, 2009 -- 'Tis the season of giving and two stories of charitable donation or instances of noblesse oblige have emerged this Christmas week.
Prince William spent a night sleeping on London's streets and the French president's wife has adopted a local homeless man as her new friend.
The Prince and the Paupers
The young Prince William, as patron of the British charity for the homeless, Centrepoint, spent the night "sleeping rough" in order to draw attention to the plight of the teenage homeless.
"I hope that by deepening my understanding of the issue, I can help do my bit to help the most vulnerable on our streets," the prince said after his night time escapade.
"I cannot, after one night, even begin to imagine what it must be like to sleep rough on London's streets night after night. Poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown cause people to become and then stay homeless. Centrepoint's work - along with many other organisations' - in tackling these fundamental causes is desperately important if we are ever to end homelessness in this country."
William spent the night of Dec. 15 in the streets of central London in below freezing conditions with nothing but a sleeping bag. He was accompanied by Centrepoint's chief executive Seyi Obakin who described the experience in his blog for the charity's website.
"For me, it was a scary experience. Out of my comfortable bed. Out there in the elements. Out there on an extremely cold night with temperatures down to 39F (-4 C). And it was the same for Prince William."
"But he was determined to do it as Patron in order to raise awareness of the problem and to be able to understand a little better what rough sleepers go through night after night."
Obakin and the prince found a secluded spot down an alleyway and bedded down, somewhat hidden by some nearby garbage bins.
"But there was no shielding from the bitter cold, or the hard concrete floor, or the fear of being accosted by drug dealers, pimps or those out to give homeless people a 'good' kicking," Obakin said.
He went on to describe their near brush with danger.
"One of the hairiest moments occurred when we were almost run over by a road sweeper which simply didn't see our small group huddled together, which just goes to show how vulnerable rough sleepers are. I have never been happier to welcome the break of dawn!"
The pair stayed out in the cold until 6 a.m. when they went to a Centrepoint hostel to mark the charity's 40th anniversary. The prince helped prepare breakfast and met with some of the homeless the charity helps.
Centrepoint was a charity close to the heart of William's mother, Princess Diana. She had also been its patron and had taken William along with his younger brother Harry to one of its shelters in 1996.
Centrepoint expressed gratitude at William's dedication to their cause, "Centrepoint is enormously grateful for the support of our patron Prince William who, as this sleep out demonstrates, plays an active role in understanding and supporting youth homelessness and the work we do at Centrepoint."
The First Lady and the Tramp
Meanwhile across (the now train filled) Channel French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has been showering her super model sympathy on a homeless man who lives in her upscale neighborhood, the 16th arrondissement of Paris.
Denis, who sleeps on the streets near the first lady's home, fell into conversation with Bruni-Sarkozy as she passed by. "She asks after me, she gives me one or two 50- or 100-euro notes," Denis told Closer magazine.
Bruni-Sarkozy first told of her rapport with Denis in the French magazine for the homeless, Macadam. "Over time we've built up a friendly relationship. I stop sometimes to greet him and very soon we talk about books and music."
According to the report in Closer Bruni-Sarkozy even gave Denis a copy of her CD.
"My friends from the street told me that as (the CD) has got her signature, it's worth a lot of money. I couldn't care less, I prefer to keep it. Having said that, I lent it to someone two months ago who hasn't given in back."
Homeless Man Praises Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as 'Great Lady'
Denis also told the magazine that Bruni-Sarkozy offered to put him up in a hotel.
"I refused," he said. "It's not that I enjoy being in the street, but I've got my habits. People say it's cold. That's true, but I'm well covered-up. What's more, Carla gave me a military-type duvet, which keeps me warm," he told Closer.
"She's a great lady, you know, Carla, even if she doesn't appear to be."