Story from Isobel McFarlane, Media Officer, Salvation Army
Albert, of British Nationality, always worked from leaving school. He says he got his work ethic from his father, who worked in the mines after serving his time in the infantry during the Second World War. Albert is a loner who never married, or had long term relationships. He has a simplistic outlook on life, with little real ambition or specific goals. He lived with his Mum and worked for a cleaning company, eventually becoming a manager. Over this time of thirty years he accrued a small pension.
His mother died when he was 57 and from that moment on his life dramatically changed. He found he was unable to cope with any responsibilities, and eventually became homeless having suffered an emotional and mental breakdown. Whilst he was waiting to be allocated a bed at a night shelter he was approached by two men. He was offered work, accommodation, food and alcohol. Albert was vulnerable at this time and decided to join them.
Albert was made to share a damp caravan with three other men and put to work laying concrete slabs and other sorts of groundwork/hard landscaping from 6am to 10pm, six days a week. The money he was promised was never given to him and when he complained about his conditions he was physically assaulted and forced to sleep outside with no shelter. Albert was too frightened to escape knowing the traffickers had a large extended family. He was sold for £3,000 to another family and moved to a different area on another site. He suffered these conditions for another four years, including being forced to drive uninsured vehicles and cold calling for work when told. He eventually escaped whilst working on a tarmac drive and took a train to London. He asked the Transport Police for help and they directed him to The Salvation Army homeless unit.
Whilst at the unit, Albert was identified as a Potential Victim of Trafficking (PVOT) and entered into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). It was decided in his case that there were a lot of unsafe areas for him so The Salvation Army arranged for him to come into the care of the Medaille Trust and allocated to a safe house in the Hampshire area. On his arrival he presented as malnourished, disorientated, and scared. After initial medical assessments, risk assessments, and sensitive information gathering he was able to relax and begin the process of Rest and Reflection, having attained his Reasonable Grounds status within five days.
Although still vulnerable, Albert focussed on his future and felt he could “breathe” for the first time in a long time. Albert did not come with any alcohol or drug issues although his living skills needed to be addressed. During his stay at the safe house, staff were informed a bank account had been fraudulently opened and claims for Housing Benefit paid in. We were able to prove this was not under Albert’s control and although he has no local connections, the fact he had come from an area under threat of harm, the local Council managed to get him into a self- contained supported flat.
Albert now spends his retirement volunteering in a charity shop and enjoys the communal entertainment and clubs where he lives. He is part of an on-going investigation regarding the travelling family, and intends to seek compensation if a conviction is upheld. Staff at the safe house were able to help him obtain assistance from outreach support agencies who continue to work on his behalf. Albert is now 65 years old, and we feel he has successfully reintegrated into the community. He remains grateful for all the support and direction received from The Salvation Army and the Medaille Trust.