Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Polish homeless shack up in Brussels

From: The News
A dozen homeless people from central and eastern Europe, including some from Poland have been camping in a covered passageway in the centre of Brussels for several months now.

They do not want any help and prefer to be left alone but their presence in the little-used arcade has already attracted the attention of the local media and law enforcement bodies. The police have tried twice to liquidate the makeshift ‘village’ but the homeless refused to move.

In an effort to escape rain and cold, they set up camp in a passageway linking two small streets in the center of the Belgian capital. The homeless sleep, rest, smoke and drink alcohol lying on neatly made beds of blankets and sleeping bags.

“We don’t need anything, all we need is to be left alone,” – a Polish woman, who has been living in the passageway for several months now, told the Polish news agency PAP. She said there are Poles in the group, but also Czechs and citizens of former Soviet republics. She refused to say what brought her to Belgium in the first place.

Some locals though want the homeless immigrants to leave. “They are nice, they say hello and behave quietly, but they should not be here,” a street cleaner said, adding that the city authorities should provide a toilet for the homeless.

A cashier from a nearby supermarket looks on at the homeless with pity.

“They sometimes come here with small amounts of cash but they never buy food, only alcohol. They are young, poor people who simply did not make it… We have no problems with them, they don’t steal, we don’t mind their presence, but it’s too bad that they don’t eat and have nowhere to go to wash themselves,” the cashier said.

Some customers buy food for the homeless in the supermarket. Others bring them bread and soup.

An estimated 100,000 Poles live in Belgium.