A homeless mum and local legend who lived on a bench outside Tooting library for six years has died of pneumonia.
Hawa Abdi Sharige was taken to St George’s Hospital, just minutes away from her bench, after falling ill on Thursday (December 30).
She died on New Year’s Eve and tributes began to pour in for the woman described as the ‘Queen of Tooting’.
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Hawa became well known to locals after she and her son began living on the bench outside the library in 2015.
Locals said that day or night, the pair would be on that bench, offering a smile to passers by.
(Image: Callum Marius)
Before then, the BBC reported that she had been evicted from a council flat in Battersea by Wandsworth Council after rent arrears built up due to the death of a family member.
The council said temporary accommodation had been lined up for them the same day, but Hawa and her son never showed up.
Instead they made a bench outside TK Maxx home, before moving to their spot outside the library.
Despite offers from her local mosque, the Somali community and Wandsworth Council, Hawa is said to have declined attempts to rehouse her.
(Image: Google Streetview)
After hearing about her death, locals set up a memorial board next to the bench Hawa lived on.
The three large boards are already covered with tributes from those flocking to pay their respects.
“Your smile will be deeply missed. May Allah grant you the highest abode in Jannah,” one mourner wrote.
“The Queen of Tooting. You will be missed,” another said.
“May us all be like Hawa Abdi Sharige and smile,” someone else wrote.
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Sana Jafri, who organised the memorial boards, paid tribute to the woman best known to many simply as ‘Aunty’.
Sana, who attend Hawa’s funeral on Monday (January 3), told MyLondon: “Hawa, also know as the Bench Lady or Aunty to some, a harmless soul parted this world.
“She lived the last few years in Tooting being a monument with a smile.
“Seeing her used to bring hope to many. Her funeral was beautiful as was she, it brought the Tooting community together.
“All differences set aside. I recall seeing many people crying in her memory. May she rest in peace.”
(Image: Callum Marius)
A spokesperson for the council said: “Wandsworth Council is saddened to hear about the death of Hawa Abdi.
“For many years the council has been enormously concerned for her and her son’s welfare and tried everything that was legally possible to get them into housing and off the streets.
“They were offered several different properties, including the original property where they used to live, but these were all turned down without being viewed.
“Social workers kept in regular contact with them, alongside health partners, the police, charities and the local Somali community, but despite repeated offers of help and support we were unable to get them to change their minds.”
The council said they are trying to locate the whereabouts of her son in order to renew an offer of accommodation and support following his mum’s passing.
Did you know Hawa Abdi Sharige? If you’d like to pay tribute get in touch by emailing [email protected]