Awareness campaign launched to tackle modern slavery of Hertfordshire's homeless
PUBLISHED: 16:06 30 January 2020
A group dedicated to tackling modern slavery took part in a county-wide campaign raising awareness of the risks posed to homeless people by traffickers and exploiters last month.
The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership - which is formed of Herts police, Shiva Foundation, Herts County Council, and other organisations - helped those that regularly encounter homeless people to recognise signs of exploitation and showed them how to report concerns.
According to the latest figures from the non-profit charity Shelter, there are more than 320,000 homeless people in the UK. Rough sleepers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to them often having little or no support network.
HMSP is advising everyone to be on the lookout for tell-tale signs that could indicate a homeless person has been or is being expolited.
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These include displaying fear, anxiety, injuries or appearing confused or traumatised. They could also have no identification on them or may not be able to speak English. They may also be working to pay off debts or for very low wages.
Jo Fisher, chair of HMSP and director for services for young people at HCC, said: "Homeless people can be extremely vulnerable and at risk from all kinds of exploitation. Many have issues with drugs, alcohol, trauma or mental illness, which can make them easy to manipulate and intimidate.
"Human traffickers are known to target the homeless, who are often desperate for money, food, work or accommodation which exploiters can offer them in exchange for miserable conditions and low or no pay.
"For a variety of reasons, homeless people are very unlikely to seek help from the police or other authorities, which means it is difficult to ascertain how many people are homeless in the county and how many are being exploited.
"The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership is asking local people, businesses and professionals to look out for the signs, and if someone is being exploited, help them by reporting incidents of modern slavery to the council or police."
Anyone with concerns about exploitation should call the non-emergency number 101 or the national 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.