Mike’s* first job was at his local supermarket when he was sixteen. He planned to save money so he could train as a plumber, but when his single mum died a few years later, he found himself in debt. Mike* struggled with grief and his relationship with his girlfriend broke down. Soon after, Mike* lost his job and became homeless.

On his third night on the streets, Mike* was approached by a man who offered to help him out with a job and a place to stay. Mike* was grateful to have someone care for him. At twenty-one he had no other family and had lost all his friends. The man drove Mike* to a warehouse and showed him to a dark room with a mattress on the floor. This became Mike*’s life. He worked on average 12 hours a day, sometimes even doing 24-hour shifts of strenuous labour. The man paid him £150 a week but kept £100 for rent. Mike* was never given protective gear and often injured himself at work. At nights, he often lay awake, unable to sleep from the cold in the unheated warehouse.

The man was never physically abusive towards Mike* but he had a bad temper and he would regularly shout at him and put him down in front of others. Mike* came to believe he wasn’t worthy of anything better. He was also terrified of finding himself back on the streets.

After fifteen years a member of the public noticed that he never left the premises and reported his exploitation to the police.  The police visited the premises and asked Mike* to follow them to the station. When he was referred to Hestia, Mike* was covered in scars, suffered from severe back pain, he was underweight and he was not registered with a GP. Mike*’s greatest fear when he arrived with us was that he wouldn’t be able to raise the money he needed to pay the rent he “owed” his exploiter.

Learn more about how to spot the signs of modern slavery.