And you thought you had it tough......

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    Polish tramps taking over the streets


    A VICIOUS turf war is erupting on Britain's streets—sparked by a shock invasion of East European DOSSERS.

    UK tradesmen have already felt the pinch as a wave of skilled migrants compete for their jobs. But now even the HOMELESS are being elbowed out by tramps from former communist states.

    A News of the World reporter slept rough on London's freezing mean streets over Christmas and discovered that, with an estimated 1,000 vagrant immigrants from Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania over here, penniless Brits are being ATTACKED in fierce FIGHTS over the best handouts, begging pitches and sleeping spots.

    Racial hatred is erupting as hostility grows over Eastern Europeans swamping day centres and soup kitchens, traditional havens for the poor.


    The Crisis Centre in Islington has beds for 350—more than 200 are filled by migrants, and fights are common. Our man soon found himself on the sharp end of bullying.

    Here is his special report: It's 1am on the coldest night of the year. I'm damp, chilled to the bone and starving. I've had enough.

    I need shelter from the freezing fog and sanctuary from the sinister characters prowling London's West End.

    My best bet for sleep looks to be a wooden crate and three cardboard boxes in the corner of a well-lit car park by Scotland Yard.

    But within minutes a bearded Eastern European man appears from nowhere then stares down menacingly and barks: "You're on my bed. Move! Now!"

    Defeated by my fearsome rival I have to settle for a stinking urine-drenched doorway.

    Incidents like this are now commonplace with one in six homeless people revealed to be from Eastern Europe by a recent government straw poll of London authorities. And charity Homeless Link says most of the immigrants are Polish.

    Read: Poles strain on our NHS

    Some of those sleeping rough actually work in bars, hotels and restaurants but still muscle in on the homeless centres for cheap food and showers instead of paying rent.

    The morning after my brush with trouble I join a group huddling by an office block's air vent, pumping out warm air near Victoria Station. Sipping from a can of Stella lager at 8am a man called Alex Millward describes the growing anger against Eastern Europeans.

    Alex—chillingly nicknamed Satan—has been an alcoholic for 20 years and dosses by the vent most days with a group of misfit mates. One 28-year-old called Derek said he's on the run from cops after holding a knife to a Glasgow bookmaker's throat and stealing £8,200 six months ago.

    Alex claims anger at the newcomers is hitting boiling point and admits he's just finished a six-month prison stretch for coshing a Polish dosser with a vodka bottle. He adds: "There's resentment that they're coming over here and taking our food and shelter.

    "I went to a food van yesterday for a sandwich and all I got was a cup of tea and crust of bread. There wasn't enough to go round because the foreigners had all turned up. I got there 10 minutes late the other night and the food was nearly all gone. It never used to be like that.

    "I get angry when they eat one meal then ditch their plate and go round for seconds, leaving nothing for latecomers."

    Then Alex reveals how groups of Poles and Slovaks gang up to attack the Brits and drive them from the most lucrative begging spots.

    He says: "There's one guy called Malic who led a gang of four thugs and beat up my friend Gary as he slept under his blanket. That was a feud over begging rights.

    "Malic ambushed Gary while he was asleep, when he couldn't defend himself. The brute tied a rope round Gary's neck and went for him with a hammer. That's why we hate them. There's been a lot of trouble."

    One of Alex's pals joins the rant and blames his dwindling income on the newcomers.

    "I was born in this country and I beg for money to buy food," he declared. "But I used to make a lot more. Five years ago I could make £100 a day begging. Now I can't make a quarter of that."

    Alex says the immigrants have targeted a nearby Salvation Army centre—where free sandwiches and blankets are handed out—and have driven local dossers out.

    His pal adds: "They like the free centres like the Salvation Army because they can stock up on food for the next day. You see them getting handfuls and stuffing their bags. I don't go down there any more because it turns into a fight."

    And the battle for survival on the streets is already tough enough, without the added tension of racial strife.

    Around me it's just filth. A used syringe, smashed wine bottles, a pile of rotting sandwiches nearby and I'm huddling by the warm air outlet with eight other no-hopers.

    A sleeping bag is my only protection from the dirt and cold. But as I lie there, a booze-addled man in his 40s opens a can of Strongbow and cackles with laughter as he pours cider over me—soaking my blanket.

    My new street pal Mark Ford, who's slept rough for 10 years and is battling heroin and crack addiction, just says: "Welcome to the Mad House!"

    I grab my bag and trudge off into the cold night in search of somewhere else to sleep. I'm alone, exposed and vulnerable.

    There are no laws to protect you when you're homeless after dark.

    Big Issue seller Tamara Winters tells us how, fed up with being ignored, she recently played dead, sprawling across the pavement. "You know what?" she says. "Nobody tried to help. They just stepped over me."

    I know how she feels. I tried my hand at begging, sat huddled in The Strand with a cereal box placard pleading: "Homeless and hungry this Christmas, please help."

    Largely ignored by the bustling crowds—apart from a woman who gave me two bananas—I wandered off to nearby St Martin's-in-the-Fields church on Trafalgar Square and joined the regular homeless lunch queue.

    Roast beef, chips and peas costs £1.30. Hot apple pie and custard is 30p. I sat opposite Angus Meigh—a veteran of 11 years' dossing—and learned of more horrors at the hands of immigrants.

    By night Angus—42, and wearing a stained blue fleece, an old scarf and tatty jeans—sleeps in bushes on Hampstead Heath. By day he sells the Big Issue.


    He told me: "I used to live in a squat in Southwark but it got taken over by a load of Poles so I had to leave.

    "I also slept in doorways around Victoria but a gang of youngsters jumped me while I was asleep and threw a wooden pallet at me.

    "If it had landed on my head I'd be dead. Gangs roam the streets round there looking for trouble.

    "Some of them wouldn't think twice before killing one of us. That's why I don't sleep in city centre doorways any more. It's too noisy and too dangerous.

    "Everyone's here for a reason but not many will tell you why. Most are embarrassed that they made big mistakes in their lives and ended up on the streets.

    "A lot of it is to do with drink or drugs. Some of them are mentally ill or they're in trouble with the police. I used to do these short-term government back-to-work schemes but it never led anywhere and afterwards I'd be back on the dole."

    Heroin addict and jailbird John Revill, 40, also revealed: "I didn't start off like this. I had a home, a job and a girlfriend. But I lost the job and flat that came with it. Then I started taking heroin. Then my girlfriend left me and I began drinking. It's a slippery slope.

    "Once you're homeless, it's a long road back."

    Early one morning I find myself in the queue for breakfast at The Passage day centre, just around the corner from Victoria. It's manna from heaven for London's desperate rough sleepers, with warm food—free vouchers for tea and toast or full English for £1—and hot showers every day.

    But I'm beaten to it by Slovakian Alena Brnova. She has every reason to be in a hurry, though—her £150-a-week job at a local hotel.

    Still hungry, I later follow a crowd of 30 to a van where volunteers hand out free hot food every night. Tonight it's white rice and baked beans.

    As the van pulls up a determined group of six Poles push their way to the front of the queue.

    Homeless Sue Jackson, 52, complains: "It's always like this. They're always the first and they'll come straight back round for seconds, you watch."

    Ten minutes after the emptied van packs up for the night the immigrant contingent gets up and marches off.

    Sue says: "It's Friday, that means they're moving on to another free food van in The Strand."

    Another unhappy dosser moans: "I wish they'd just KEEP moving on...out to the airport and back where they came from."