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Opinion divided over permanent memorial to Stefania

A memorial service for a much-loved homeless woman from Forest Hill was held on Saturday after £8,000 was raised by mourners, but the question of a permanent memorial has divided opinion.

Stefania, who struggled with drug addiction and was regularly seen sitting in an underpass near the station, died in hospital after an operation, leaving her local community bereft.

Stefania was known for her friendly personality and willingness to help older people and those carrying suitcases and buggies up and down the stairs.

Flowers and tributes have been placed in the underpass where she was often camped out, and nearly £8,000 was raised for her cremation and a memorial service, held on Saturday at Sydenham School, including paying for her family from Italy to attend.

But the question of a more permanent memorial has sparked debate between those who want to mark the place she often called home with a mural in the underpass, and others who believe the best legacy for Stefania would be to channel funds into charities to help people into rehab and permanent housing.

On the SE23 online forum, opinion was mixed. Poster BigAl said a mural would “be a testament to the kindness she inspired, and the kindness of strangers, which is what London is all about,” but the idea was described as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘misplaced grief’ by others.

One commentator, writing under the name ak8, said: “There are many homeless troubled individuals that are regular faces in Forest Hill who form part of our community.

“A better sense of community would not be to focus on one but to get out there and help the many,” while another poster questioned whether they should put up a memorial in a place where she had lived such an unhappy life.

“Surely by doing something with the money raised to help others and help prevent another person living that apparently sad life would be a better legacy …not by putting up a memorial in a place where she often seemed unhappy,” said a forum user writing under the name Forestbird.

The official memorial fund, set up on GoFundMe by local resident Clare Phipps, will ensure any remaining money is donated to charities helping rough sleepers.

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