Alone and cold on Christmas Eve

When is a beggar not a beggar? When they are a victim of modern slavery. A story of how by saying Let’s Talk, a victim of modern slavery found a chance at freedom.

It’s Christmas Eve and Mary* is rushing through the town centre with her kids to get those final last bits of shopping done. She notices a young woman begging outside the supermarket and hesitates, before resolving to keep going, they have a lot to do. Her youngest son, Freddie, stops her and says ‘Mum, shouldn’t we talk to her, can we help her?’.

Sighing Mary says ‘of course’ and they walk over. The woman looks thin and tired. She has a half eaten sandwich next to her and a bottle of water. But, Mary notices, she doesn’t have any bedding or bags, none of the usual bits of paraphernalia you would associate with someone who was homeless.

Mary starts talking to her, asking her name, where she’s from, could they do anything to help? The woman begins to open up. Her name is Rosa*. She lives in London, a good few hours away from where she is now, in a small flat with a lot of people in it. The man who runs her accommodation drove her and four others to this town to beg today. She came to the UK to work a couple of weeks ago but she has only been begging so far. She has to give all the money she makes to the man, and he checks on her periodically throughout the day.

Mary has a dawning realisation that this woman, and the others who have been bussed here today, are being exploited. She explains to Rosa that she can find her help if she wants it. She doesn’t have to sit here, alone and cold on Christmas Eve.

If you think you have come across modern slavery you can always call the Modern Slavery Helpline for help and advice. Their number is 08000 121 700, or download their ‘Unseen’ app. If you are volunteering in or leading a project that supports the vulnerable, take a look at our Let’s Talk page for more guidance on how (and why) to report.

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.