Protecting the homeless from modern slavery

The Clewer Initiative has got together with homelessness charity Housing Justice, Caritas Westminster and Capital Mass to produce a video on modern slavery and homelessness.

As winter arrives, churches and communities across the UK are opening their churches and community centres and running night shelters to provide a warm bed to those who have nowhere else to go But homeless people are still vulnerable to another danger: modern slavery. 

Homeless people across the UK are being targeted by people who want to exploit them for profit. They will recruit them on the streets, at soup kitchens, and at night shelters, promising them a job and a place to stay.

When people are in such a desperate situation, you’re at such a low ebb in terms of your confidence, self-esteem, your self-worth, and you’re prime to being exploited.
— Mark Brennan, Shelter Projects Coordinator, Housing Justice

The job may turn out to be hard manual labour, sexual exploitation, or domestic servitude. There will be little or no pay, and the place to stay might be a dirty caravan, or a mattress in a shipping container. Often it will be accompanied by violence and threats, to keep their captives in line, and those who try to leave may be beaten or threatened. 

Modern Slavery and Night Shelters

In the film we ask people to keep an eye out for those who could be recruiting in shelters they volunteer at and encourage them to report any concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline and their shelter coordinator.

If parishes are noticing slavery in their community, they need to think about reporting it, which they would do via the modern slavery helpline. I think if it’s happening in a church-related project it’s important to report it to whoever is in charge of the project to make sure they know what’s happening, as well as to the modern slavery helpline… It can be the very small bits of information that can lead to a breakthrough.
— Caroline Virgo, Project Officer, The Clewer Initiative

Verity Sykes, a Volunteer Coordinator with Caritas Westminster encourages people to call the helpline with any concerns, even if they're not sure that what they are seeing is modern slavery. 'I think often we can be afraid of reporting something, if we're not quite sure what's happening, but actually it's really important that the police can gather as much information as possible.'

We can protect homeless people from the cold, and from modern slavery, by working together. Share the video and help us raise awareness and say to those who are vulnerable: we see you.

Learn how to spot the signs of modern slavery here