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

New research by charity Hestia finds link between homelessness and modern slavery

  • Charity finds poor Local Authority support sees victims sleeping rough and at risk of further exploitation

  • Hestia calls on Local Authorities to join forces with faith organisations, homelessness and modern slavery support charities to better identify victims and help them access safe accommodation and support
Tuesday 15th October:

A new report today 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.”
Notes to editor:

Full copy of the report available. Case studies available upon request.
  1. Robust research

Government should carry out an up-to-date prevalence study on modern slavery in the UK. We welcome the announcement of a new Modern Slavery Research Centre by the Home Office and believe this presents a great opportunity to address the current research gap;

Local government should start systematic data collection on the incidence of vulnerable adults sleeping rough and at risk of exploitation and re-exploitation;

  1. Identification and response in local areas

Local Authorities across the country should train staff across different front-line roles to recognise the indicators and risks of modern slavery, including homelessness to increase the identification of victims and prevent re-trafficking;

Homelessness charities should understand how to identify and refer victims of modern slavery and those at risk of exploitation; in particular in their outreach services, day centres and night shelters as the low threshold services these vulnerable people are more likely to access; and

Be resourced to increase the availability and accessibility of information on support services for survivors of modern slavery amongst the homeless population;

Faith and religious organisations should be recognised as groups who can support  identification and support for these vulnerable people to First Responders;

  1. Develop appropriate pathways in partnership

Local Authorities should ensure the extensive take up of the Adult Modern Slavery Protocol for Local Authorities developed by the Human Trafficking Foundation and the London Anti-Slavery Working Group; and

Establish cross-sector partnerships between statutory services, homelessness and modern slavery support, and other voluntary sector services to provide alternative options for making homelessness applications that are accessible to survivors of modern slavery;


This report draws together:
  • Analysis of available data on rough sleeping and modern slavery from the National Crime Agency, Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and the CHAIN homelessness database;

  • Review of available literature;

  • Interviews with 12 Hestia clients who have experienced rough sleeping and modern slavery; and

  • Consultation with advocates from Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response Team and the Post NRM support - Phoenix Project.
Appendix for data 
Prevalence of Rough Sleeping and Modern Slavery in London - Calculation
Population of people sleeping rough in London during 2018/19: 8,855
Prevalence of modern slavery in the UK: 13,000 (Home Office study) – 136,000 (Global Slavery Index study). For the purpose of this report we are relying on the more conservative Home Office estimates.
Percentage of victims of modern slavery who are adults according to NRM data: 55%
Prevalence of adult victims of modern slavery in the UK: 7,150
Percentage of victims of modern slavery in London according to NRM data: 33%
Prevalence of adult victims of modern slavery in London: 2,359
Estimate of adult male victims of modern slavery in London: 60% of total number, i.e. 1,415
Estimate of adult female victims of modern slavery in London: 40% of total number, i.e. 944
Prevalence of rough sleeping amongst adult men who have been exploited in modern slavery: 54%
Prevalence of rough sleeping amongst adult women who have been exploited in modern slavery: 5.2%
Number of adult men who have been exploited in modern slavery and experienced rough sleeping in London: (0.54 x 1,415) = 764
Number of adult women who have been exploited in modern slavery and experienced rough sleeping in London: (0.052 x 944) = 49
Total number of adults who have been exploited in modern slavery and experienced rough sleeping in London 813 adults OR
9.2 % total number of rough sleepers in 2018/19
Hestia’s support for victims of modern slavery:

Since 2011 Hestia has supported over 4,000 victims of modern slavery including their dependents. Currently, Hestia provides 6 safe houses in London and Kent, as well as a pan-London outreach service working in every London borough. In 2019, we expect that number to reach 1,600 adults and 500 dependent children. We work closely with The Salvation Army to deliver support to victims who have been referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and who have chosen to be supported by the Home Office funded Victim Care Contract. In 2018, Hestia also launched the Phoenix Project in partnership with the British Red Cross to provide volunteer-led, long-term support to victims of modern slavery.
About Hestia 

At Hestia, we support adults and children across London in times of crisis. Last year we worked with nearly 10,00 people, including victims of modern slavery, women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, young care leavers and older people. From giving someone a home to helping them to get the right mental health support, we support and enable people at the moment of crisis to build a life beyond crisis.
Hestia is also the home of UK SAYS NO MORE, a national campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sexual violence across the UK.