More than £6,000 has been raised by a community heartbroken by the death of a well-loved homeless woman in Forest Hill, with mourners saying they were ‘privileged to have been blessed with her company and uplifting spirit’.
Stefania, originally from Italy, who died suddenly last week after a hospital operation, was a familiar face to south Londoners travelling through Forest Hill station’s underpass. Nearly £4,000 was raised in just a single day by a community shocked by her untimely death.
Despite being homeless and struggling with a serious, chronic drug addiction, the mother-of-two was known for going out of her way to help others.
Her kindness and warmth led her to regularly helping older people and those struggling with cases or buggies up the stairs, and she was known for always having a friendly smile and wave to anyone she came across.
After unexpectedly passing away, devastated locals have set up a memorial fund to pay for a funeral and left dozens of flowers and tributes to a woman described as ‘much loved friend’, with many cards from children who waved to her each day.
Writing on the online platform Go Fund Me, Clare Lorraine Phipps, from Sunderland Road, who set up the memorial fund, said: “From helping to carry buggies on the stairs near where she used to sit in the station underpass to always giving a smile and a kind word to passers-by, Stefania brightened up our community.
“She was always so nice to everyone even though no-one could have judged her had she not been, and that is reflected in the large number of people that are mourning her loss.
“Stefania also leaves behind a son and a daughter who did not join her in the UK.
“Many of us will have tried to help Stefania, as someone who was homeless, in our own way.
“But despite that, we are confronted with what seems – based on current information – to have been a needless, premature death.
“Like many others we wanted to remember Stefania by making a donation so we have set up this page, with the support of Rev. Edd Stock from the Holy Trinity Church.”
Tributes for Stefania praised her compassion, with people who had often given her food, money and toiletries sharing their memories: “Stefania was such a beautiful soul.
“She asked the world for nothing and offered to help everyone when she needed help herself,” said one well-wisher.
“All she wanted was for people not to walk past her like litter… maybe people will think twice about walking past the next homeless lady they see in the street.”
Another wrote: “As everyone says Stefania always had a smile, such sad news, Stefania has been part of mine and my children’s lives for many years.”
Among tributes she was described as having a ‘heart of gold’, with many saying they wished they could tell her what she meant to the community she lived in.
Now plans are in motion for a public memorial, which hundreds of people are expected to attend. Well-wishers including the local vicar have been able to contact her family in Italy, who are unable to cover the costs of a funeral, which will be paid for by the funds.
They hope to hold a memorial later this month – in a venue with a 300 person capacity, so everyone who Stefania’s life touched can say their goodbyes.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/stefanias-memorial-fund