Help spot homeless people at risk of slavery

Staff and volunteers at night shelters are being urged to be on the lookout for signs of exploitation among guests in a campaign launched by the Church of England’s anti-slavery initiative.

More than 1,000 posters and other materials aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of modern slavery are to be distributed to winter night shelters across the country by The Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s response to modern slavery. The Let’s Talk initiative is encouraging night shelters and other outreach services such as soup kitchens to share concerns with the Modern Slavery Helpline or local support services.

The signs of modern slavery amongst homeless people could include:

• Unusual anxiety about people in positions of authority and extreme fear of being watched
• Working for no or little pay
• Working in the most common sectors for modern slavery such as construction and hand car washes
• Not being allowed to leave their place of work
• Having no control of their ID
• Being approached on the street, outside a shelter or at drop-in by someone offering work
• Signs of physical abuse or untreated injuries

The Let’s Talk initiative includes a poster illustrating the typical journey of a homeless person trafficked into exploitation. There are also guidance notes for project managers and volunteers in night shelters on the steps they can take to safeguard their guests from this danger. These include warning guests of the dangers of modern slavery. The Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, Chair of The Clewer Initiative, said: “Time and time again in our work around the country we meet volunteers and project leaders who have encountered modern slavery and have either not recognised it, or not known what to do about it. With rising numbers of homeless people on our streets, it is even more important that we can recognise the signs. With the Let’s Talk resources we will equip the Church to understand what modern slavery looks like, and how they can respond to protect the vulnerable.”

Dr Julia Tomas, Anti-Slavery Coordinator for The Passage said: “In our work with homeless people in London we see how homelessness affects victims of modern slavery who have escaped from their place of exploitation but have nowhere else to go. In its work with the vulnerable across the country, the church has a huge role to play in raising awareness of this issue, and I commend the work of The Clewer Initiative in this area.”

Lys Ford from the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said: “The GLAA has become increasingly aware of the link between modern slavery and homelessness. We are convinced that by sharing more information between organisations we can find victims earlier and stop perpetrators faster. The Let’s Talk resources from The Clewer Initiative are a great way to get this message across and we hope those running winter night shelters will use them and take action on this issue.”