World

'Stay-for-sex' ads prompt concerns over sexual abuse

LONDON: A rise in online ads offering accommodation in the UK rent-free in exchange for sex has fuelled fears over the safety of young homeless people who could fall prey to sexual abuse.

One posting offered escort work with accommodation. Another proposed a rent-free "friends with benefits" arrangement.

The ads, posted on US-based Internet bulletin board Craigslist, have prompted charities to call for the website's vetting procedures to be examined.

Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment.

"It's awful that young people are in a situation where they consider taking up these ads," Ms Jennifer Barnes, head of policy and research for Centrepoint homeless charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Last year, more than 4,100 people slept rough in England, a 16 per cent rise from the year before.

Ms Barnes said besides searching for housing on websites like Craigslist, some were using dating apps and dating websites to find shelter, while others were approaching people in clubs or bars to ask whether they could stay with them.

Many who end up homeless are escaping abuse at home and need accommodation, Ms Barnes said.

"Young people aren't doing this because they want to, they're doing it because they're desperate for somewhere to stay," she said.

"By going down this route, they're putting themselves at significant risk." 
- THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

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