A simple toiletry kit can help victims of modern slavery feel human again. When Hestia asked us if we could hep the 200+ men in their outreach and safe house program, we turned to corporate partners GSMA to run a month long Hygiene Bank collection scheme for us, focusing on male toiletries and grooming products.
Hestia is the largest provider of support for victims of modern slavery in London and the southeast. They provide 6 safe houses in London and Kent, as well as a pan-London outreach service working in every London borough.
In 2018 they supported 1,125 adults and 507 dependent children. Of these, 218 were men
Recent research revealed that these men were forced to work in farms, construction sites or cannabis farms, sold for sex or used as slaves in people’s homes. Their experiences are horrifying. Psychological manipulation, violence and rape were regularly used by their abusers to break their spirits and stop their escape.
Nearly half of the men who came to Hestia had no living family and nearly all experience mental health issues as a result of their ordeal. Shame about what happened to them and reluctance to show vulnerability stops them from asking for help and we know that despite more men being referred into the National Referral Mechanism for the identification of victims of modern slavery only 1 in 4 accepted support from services like Hestia.
Hestia’s specialist advocate support these men to begin to recover from the traumas they have experienced and arrange donations of clothes, food and toiletries as many of them arrive with just the clothes on their back.
Hestia said “A donation from the Hygiene Bank will simply help these men feel human again. Giving them a boost in self care and show that there are people out there who do care for them”.
This is Mike’s Story.
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.
You can find out more in our recent report on male victims of modern slavery: https://www.hestia.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=60de8cf2-497f-4c80-8831-f35b335ae6b1