Let's talk...

...about Modern Slavery and Homelessness

Homeless people are at risk of modern slavery. They are being targeted at drop-ins, winter night shelters, and on the streets. Help us change the story.

Charlie's story

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“People ask, why has it happened to you so many times? It’s because they target you when you’re drunk. And it’s wet and cold and you’re hungry, and someone’s offering you work and a drink at 3 o’clock in the morning you jump on it. The penny don’t drop, because all you’re thinking is you ain’t got a drink in your bag, but soon the cycle starts again.”


According to the Homelessness Monitor, rough sleeping in England has grown by 165% since 2010.

In the last two years, the Modern Slavery Helpline has had reports of 353 potential victims who were homeless before, during, or after being exploited.

There are many causes for homelessness, ranging from family break-ups, to unemployment, personal crises, and mental health. Homeless people living on the street, and those in temporary accommodation, are vulnerable to being exploited by perpetrators of slavery who can offer incentives that sound attractive. Many of these perpetrators are part of national or global gangs, operating in different parts of the country, which means they can move slaves from town to town to avoid detection and isolate the slaves further from potential networks of help.

Victims of modern slavery may also become homeless after escaping from their traffickers because they are unable or don’t know how to access support.

At the moment, although there is lots of anecdotal evidence, there is very little data to connect homelessness and modern slavery. We need this to change.

We know that over the winter many churches across the UK host or support Night Shelters, potentially coming into contact with thousands of homeless people. We need you to start a conversation with your guests, to enable them to find help and support, and to help us to understand the problem.

Have they been targeted by traffickers? Have they picked up casual work which turned out to be abusive or exploitative? Ask open questions which encourage your guests to tell their story.

Let’s talk to the homeless people in our communities, so we can say We See You to victims of modern slavery.

What to do

If you come across a homeless person who has been exploited...

1. If you are volunteering in a shelter or project, tell whoever is in charge of your project.

2. Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 for support and advice.

3. Help us gather evidence to protect homeless people from traffickers. Share your story with us at clewerinitiative@churchofengland.org

4. Check the information below to find out more about what to do and how you can begin to slavery-proof your church projects.

Call 08000 121 700

Actions we can take to ensure all projects are 'slavery-proof'

  • Provide core training to volunteers on all aspects of modern slavery including types of slavery, detecting the signs, understanding the steps for an appropriate response, and the link to safeguarding.
  • Ensure all volunteers have an opportunity to regularly feed back on concerns or issues they have come across.
  • Include the risk of modern slavery being connected with your project in your risk assessment.
  • Ensure that the project’s leaders have a very good understanding of the steps to take in situations where modern slavery is suspected.
  • Set up strategic partnerships with the police, local authorities and Frontline Responders such as the Salvation Army.
  • Make sure guests of the project can get the information they need if they are at risk of modern slavery. This could include:
  • If appropriate, you could host a brief awareness raising session for guests, using films, stories, and statistics to help them understand that they may be at risk.

Download resources such as posters and leaflets to raise awareness.

Learn More

Safeguarding and modern slavery

The safeguarding mechanism is a key strategy for equipping local churches with the awareness and the skills to detect and prevent modern slavery. All Safeguarding Officers should be made aware of the key factors of modern slavery which directly affect their areas of responsibility.

All Safeguarding Officers should:

  • Be aware of the signs and impacts of modern slavery and how it can be detected and prevented.
  • Be able to communicate the key facts and signs of modern slavery to volunteers and leaders involved in church and community projects.
  • Know the procedures to undertake in the case of modern slavery being identified in a project or within the community. This includes knowledge of the Modern Slavery Helpline, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the local police slavery contact and any Frontline Responders such as the Salvation Army.
  • Alert church leadership and decision making bodies where cases of modern slavery have been identified and share the course of action which is to be taken.
  • Be proactive in raising awareness and safeguarding concerns with both ongoing church and community projects and new ones. This includes food banks, night shelters, homeless hostels, soup kitchens or any project that relates to the care and support of the vulnerable.
  • Attend local or regional modern slavery updates and communicate these to the church and other key stake holders.
  • Ensure safe storage of all data and records relating to safeguarding around modern slavery.

Advice for project managers

Statutory partners

As your work on modern slavery develops, you will begin to build up relationships with those working on the issue in your area. This may include partners from law enforcement and the local authority.

Police forces will typically have their own Modern Slavery Lead, and they may also have an officer responsible for partnership working. Developing a good relationship with those officers will mean you can easily call on them in a crisis situation.

As well as the police, other law enforcement agencies play a role in investigating modern slavery, most notably the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority who are responsible for the UK labour market. They have expertise in labour exploitation. To report a concern call them on 0800 432 0804 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Charities and faith groups

You should always speak to your Parish and Diocesan Safeguarding Officers about any reporting of modern slavery. This is essential if the inciting incident takes place on church property.

There are lots of charities working in the modern slavery sector, offering different but overlapping levels of support. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the charities who are active in your local area, not only those working explicitly on modern slavery, but also those who support vulnerable groups such as young people, refugees and asylum seekers, and the homeless.

Some of the larger charities in this sector are The Salvation Army, who hold the government contract for safehouse accommodation, and Medaille Trust, who are the biggest provider of safehouses, but there may be different providers in your area, as well as charities providing alternative kinds of support.

If you come across someone who you suspect to be a victim of modern slavery, they may not want to speak to law enforcement or enter the government system of support. Having good links with your local charities and service providers will enable you to find help for that person even in the event of them refusing help from the police.

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