Tributes have poured in to one of Peterborough's most colourful and best known rough sleepers, who was found dead in a city street yesterday.
Valerie Collins was found dead in the car park in St Peter's Road behind Peterborough Town Hall at around 7am on Monday March 5.
Valerie was well known in the city, having set up a display of plants in the entrance of shops in Bridge Street. The mother of two spent months living out of bins with her sleeping bag, pot plants and pram all squeezed into her small living space.
Tributes have flooded into the Peterborough Telegraph since her death yesterday.
Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich said: "I will miss Valerie, we had a chat most days, always proud, clean and looking her best, she chose to sleep rough and had done for over 20 years. RIP."
Doreen Price said: "She was such a lovely lady I've spoken to her a couple of times and gave her money. Bless her, rest in peace sweetheart."
Flowers, candles, cards and pictures have been placed by members of the public at the location where Valerie was found yesterday.
One tribute read: "To a very special lady who changed my life in so many ways and who made my job worth doing. You will be sadly missed, rest in peace. Pauline"
Jorjie Nikolaki said: "R.I.P.Valerie, I will miss you in the mornings sitting at Greggs drinking coffee and me offering you biscuits when i was going to work.Lovely lady beautiful smile.xxx"
Del Singh said: "When I started running in the evenings I often ran by Valerie in a Bridge Street, Peterborough doorway. I have to confess to my shame as a "big strong bloke" she scared me at first as she spoke loudly as I approached her on one occasion, worried she had a baby in the push pram in the doorway in the cold.
"But clearly this was he mechanism for scaring off the "nutters" as she called them who would laugh at her or abuse her. The next time round I stopped in a shop and bought a sandwich and a coffee and walked over slowly holding them out and speaking slowly said, "I bought too much would you like these?" Yes, she said and stood up to accept the food. "Are you alright, isn't the child cold?" I asked pointing to the pram. "No child just my things, just my world in there" she replied. "Do you need anything else?" I asked and she immediately said, "No, I have all I need" with total conviction.
"I wished her good night and continued my run, I saw her a few more times and dropped off more food although the last time I did it she did say she didn't want anyone's pity but preferred it if people didn't waste food.
"I did think of her last week with the cold and the snow and am so saddened to hear today she has died. I know she was offered help by the Council but refused and was an independent, free spirited, eccentric person who wanted to live her way and she got her wish.
"To anyone reading this please don't just walk by people in doorways stop, acknowledge them, don't be rude or abusive as you don't know what they have gone through or their situation. I only spoke to her a few times and didn't know Valerie that well or as a friend but I am devastated to learn of her passing."
Anton Land added: "Very much like 'Nobby' - Oundle Road bus shelter - Val became a part of the streets of Peterborough and by that virtue, one of life's special characters.
"Many genuine folk around the city would take food and ndrink along with blankets and other spare items they had to offer comfort to the city's homeless and THAT is a huge positive for a great city - that its residents have enough care and (in some cases - empathy) sympathy for others less fortunate or less able.
"Whether it be in the most atrocious of conditions or moderate, help someone less fortunate than yourselves and show them succour wherever you can. A dear, disabled friend took a homeless Oundle gentleman into his home last week and gave him a few warm days and protection from the bitter conditions outside. It humbled a lot of us that he, despite his own conditions, gave succour to this homeless gentleman.
"RIP Val - A Peterborough resident and a true character of the streets."