Nearly 1 in 10 rough sleepers in London are victims of modern slavery

A new report revealed highlights concerns that victims of modern slavery are sleeping rough and facing further exploitation due to lack of appropriate Local Authority support.

New research by London-based charity Hestia reveals the close link between homelessness and modern slavery in London. Rough sleeping, in particular, places victims at high risk of further exploitation. Yet nearly 1 in 10 out of nearly 9,000 people sleeping rough in London over the past year have been exploited in modern slavery.

For Underground Lives: Homelessness & Modern Slavery in London Hestia consulted with survivors of modern slavery who had experienced sleeping rough to identify the barriers they faced to seeking help. This research reveals how existing pathways out of homelessness are not suited to meet their needs.

According to the research, victims do not approach Local Authorities for housing support out of fear or lack of information. The most likely avenue for seeking support was instead faith and religious organisations.

Local Authorities are the only First Responder organisation who have a statutory duty to both reduce homelessness and refer potential victims of modern slavery to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). However, in 2018 they were one of the lowest-performing organisations to successfully recognise potential victims of modern slavery only referring 105 vulnerable adults to the NRM across the country.

Patrick Ryan, CEO of Hestia said:

“Modern slavery is a horrific crime that turns a profit from brutal exploitation. Although help is available many victims still struggle. If that leaves them sleeping rough, it takes a huge toll on people who have already suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of their exploiters. On the streets, they’re at real risk of falling back into exploitation.

This report is a starting point for understanding the link between modern slavery and homelessness. As the leading organisation in London supporting victims, we can help train local authorities to break the cycle of homelessness and exploitation and enable more victims to access the support they desperately need to start building a life beyond crisis.”