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No way out and no way home: modern slavery and homelessness in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Many of us may wonder how modern slavery can continue to exist in our society. Yet at Crisis, and through many of our partners, we hear of people experiencing homelessness who have faced exploitation – forced to take part in sex work, work as a live-in servant or take part in crippling manual labour, working all hours of the day for little to no money, scared and feeling there is no way out. No-one should be forced to live like this.   

Today we have published “No way out and no way home: modern slavery and homelessness in England Wales and Northern Ireland”, one of the first comprehensive study on the links between modern slavery and homelessness, and the findings are stark. The research has been conducted as part of a multi-agency project (TILI) in partnership with HestiaBawsoBelfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, and Shared Lives.

The data – based on 331 people who were in contact with services - shows a deep link between homelessness and modern slavery. We found that when people were first ‘recruited’ or coerced into exploitation, the most common living arrangements were either sofa surfing or rough sleeping, each accounting for roughly a quarter of cases. However, whilst the exploitation was ongoing, a staggering two thirds of victims were living in accommodation provided by or linked to their exploiters. This shows that people experiencing homelessness aren’t only more exposed to exploitation, but that modern slavery itself is often also a housing issue. It exploits people’s need for accommodation, and can then turn that accommodation into a means of control.

This report provides us with the clear evidence of a link, and more importantly, what we need to do to end the cycle of people trapped in homelessness and modern slavery.