Throughout the year, hundreds of churches and community groups across the UK are running drop-in centres for homeless people. Over the winter, thousands more host night shelters. Traffickers, preying on the most vulnerable in our society, are targeting these same drop-in centres and night shelters, looking for workers to exploit.
They will come with offers of steady work, an easy way to make a quick buck. That turns out to be a lie. The promised accommodation is the back of van, or a tent. The work is hard, long, and there isn’t any pay. Anyone who tries to escape is beaten into submission.
Charlie was homeless from the age of fourteen. Abused by his mother’s boyfriend, he ran away and ended up on the streets of London. There he was easy prey for traffickers. They forced him to work - brick-laying, tarmacking, roofing - and beat him when he refused.
Whenever he thought he had gotten away, they found him again, luring him in with promises of drugs or alcohol, or sometimes just throwing him in the back of a car. This is Charlie’s Story.
What to do next
Any church or community running outreach for homeless people needs to know about the risks to their guests. We have created a digital training resource, with the aim of increasing awareness of modern slavery amongst those who work or volunteer in projects with homeless people, so they know what to do should this situation occur. It covers:
Why homeless people are vulnerable to modern slavery
What signs you can look out for if you think someone might have been exploited
How to tell if someone is recruiting from your project
What to do if you are worried about exploitation or recruitment
What does the resource consist of?
The main body of the resource consists of 4 videos, which are aimed at volunteers working in a project. They are designed to be accessible and digestible, with each video less than 5 minutes long. The videos have accompanying notes, which summarise the content and include several questions to reflect on and consider. You can download the videos and the notes below. They can be used alone, or in a group.
What else can I do?
We also strongly recommend taking our two Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Safeguarding courses. They are hosted on the Church of England Safeguarding Portal. They are free to use, though you will need to register for an account to access them. They can be found under ‘Additional Resources’.
Why are homeless people vulnerable to modern slavery?
We speak to Dr Julia Tomas from The Passage, a large homeless centre in London, and Revd Dr Dan Pratt, a baptist minister from Southend who runs a church for the homeless, about why homeless people are particularly vulnerable to modern slavery.
How do you spot the signs of exploitation?
Julia and Dan explain what kinds of work homeless people are forced to do, and how to spot the signs of exploitation amongst your guests. We also talk about what kind of questions you can ask to identify modern slavery and what you should do once you spot the signs.
How do you spot the signs of traffickers recruiting from your project?
Julia and Dan talk through how traffickers will approach projects, and what you should do if you are concerned someone is targeting your project, including what details to write down for the police.
notes for project leaders
Make sure your project has all the right safeguards in place with these notes. Includes: a list of questions to ask before the training; where to find more information; and how to share your experiences of seeing modern slavery in your project.
training for volunteers
These notes will lead your volunteers through the training. Each video has a short summary, and a few questions for the volunteer to answer, either by themselves or as a group.
The Passage is a homeless shelter in London. They have dealt with many cases of modern slavery amongst their clients and as a result have created this short handbook which you can print off for a quick reference guide to modern slavery and homelessness.