Homeless mum and ‘Queen of Tooting’ dies after contracting pneumonia

Hawa Abdi Sharige, who lived on a bench outside Tooting library for 6 years, was known to locals as ‘Aunty’ and had a smile which ‘lit up Tooting’

Londoners are paying tribute to the ‘Queen of Tooting’, who died of pneumonia on New Year’s Eve.

Hawa Abdi Sharige, a mum who lived on a bench outside Tooting library for six years and had a smile which ‘lit up Tooting’, was taken to St George’s Hospital after falling ill on December 30.

Tributes have been pouring in since she passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Three large memorial boards next to the bench where Hawa lived have been filled with tributes from locals flocking to pay their respects to her.

“Your smile will be deeply missed. May Allah grant you the highest abode in Jannah,” one wrote.

“The Queen of Tooting. You will be missed,” said another.

“May us all be like Hawa Abdi Sharige and smile,” someone else wrote.

Sana Jafri, who organised the memorial boards and attended Hawa’s funeral on January 3, told MyLondon, “Hawa, also known 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.”

Hawa became well known to locals as she would always offer a smile to passers by, after she and her son began living on the bench outside the library in 2015.

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 and make contact with Hawa’s son, in order to renew an offer of accommodation and support following his mum’s passing.