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Campaign to raise awareness of exploitation of the homeless

10 Dec 2019
  • Campaign to raise awareness of exploitation of the homeless

  • Homeless people particularly vulnerable to modern slavery

  • The campaign will run from 16-20 December

In the run up to Christmas, the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership (HMSP) is raising awareness of the risks posed to homeless people by traffickers and exploiters.

The partnership’s campaign will run from 16-20 December and aims to help the public, businesses and services that encounter homeless people spot the signs of exploitation and know how to report concerns. Information in a variety of formats and languages has been distributed across Hertfordshire.

Since September, the HMSP has been busy, providing training on exploitation to local authority housing officers. The training, which was delivered in partnership with the Beacon Victim Care Centre and charities Hope for Justice, Hull Homeless Community Project and the Passage, has been specifically developed with homeless people in mind.

There are over 320,000 homeless people in the UK (Shelter 2018) and the homeless and rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation as a result of substance addiction, mental health issues, trauma, loneliness, instability and having little or no support network.

There are a number of signs that could indicate a homeless person has previously been exploited or is currently being exploited: 

  • Are they displaying fear, anxiety, injuries or poor health?
  • Do they appear confused, traumatised or have their money or documentation controlled by someone else?
  • Are they without ID, or unable to speak English?
  • Are they working to pay off debts or for very low wages?

Jo Fisher, Chairperson of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership and Operations Director for Services for Young People at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Homeless people can be extremely vulnerable and at risk from all kinds of exploitation. Many have issues with drugs, alcohol, trauma or mental illness, which can make them easy to manipulate and intimidate. Human traffickers are known to target the homeless, who are often desperate for money, food, work or accommodation which exploiters can offer them in exchange for miserable conditions and low or no pay.

“For a variety of reasons, homeless people are very unlikely to seek help from the police or other authorities, which means it is difficult to ascertain how many people are homeless in the county and how many are being exploited.

“The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership is asking local people, businesses and professionals to look out for the signs, and if someone is being exploited, help them by report incidents of modern slavery to the council or police.”

Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said:

“Modern slavery is a vicious crime whereby criminals cruelly exploit their fellow human beings. Although anyone can become a victim of modern slavery, traffickers often target the most vulnerable in our communities, such as homeless people.

“Victims of modern slavery can also be at risk of becoming homeless or destitute once they have left government-provided support, leaving them vulnerable to re-trafficking and further abuse.

“For many of us, Christmas is a time of year to spend time with loved ones. As the festive season approaches, I would urge the public and front line professionals to take heed of this Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership campaign and look out for signs that a homeless person – isolated from friends and family – may have been exploited or is at risk of becoming so.”

Anyone with concerns about exploitation should call Hertfordshire Constabulary’s non-emergency number police 101 (ask for the modern slavery unit) or the national charity-run 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999.

Beacon is available to offer support to victims locally, you can call the hotline on 03000 11 55 55   to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.

To join in the conversation and for further updates follow the partnership on Twitter @HertsMSP or visit the website, for more information, advice and support.


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