Some days the bipolarity of my job just absolutely blows my mind.
I started out today photographing and filming a $1 million historic Tudor home "with panoramic views of the Hudson River!" for the Real Estate section. The agent walked me and my cameras around the property, extolling the virtues of the inground heated swimming pool and adjacent cabana, the jacuzzi and steam shower, the two working fireplaces (one surrounded by vintage tile, naturally), the newly renovated kitchen with brand-new stainless steel appliances, multilevel terraces, a claw-footed bathub, original hardwood floors and mahogany beams, and the topper, a completely separate apartment for live-in help that can also stay vacant for occasional use as a guest suite.
Then my cell phone rang.
State troopers and local police are evicting a homeless woman from her temporary shelter behind a Park and Ride lot near the Thruway. (This is a trend we've been following.) She had left briefly to go to a nearby church for their free breakfast program, but the volunteer with the key to the church kitchen didn't show. She went back to her makeshift shelter to eat fistfuls of dry cereal and found two bulldozers getting ready to raze the home she made from a tent, a tarp, playwood and some old shipping pallets.
She called her social worker who promised to be there in 20 minutes, but never showed up. Then she called a friend (yes, she has a prepaid cell phone with minimal minutes. Judge if you must, but remember, by the grace of God go all of us...) who lives in his car. They loaded everything they could into the trunk and the backseat. She took everything she could grab to the home of a friend, an elderly woman she calls "Mom" who lives in Section 8 housing and never fully recovered from a broken hip.
People from her church offered to pay for a storage locker where she could lock up her belongings. She will sleep at her friend's house tonight, but tomorrow she's on her own. She doesn't want to go to a shelter because she hasn't done drugs in six months. She's afraid of falling off the wagon if she runs into her old crowd, whom she knows will be in the shelter.
She doesn't want to get help from the nearby organization started by and for homeless people, because the man in charge- who was homeless until recently- left her for another woman. She is broke, brokenhearted, and scared. She is getting by with the help of people from her church where she hopes to be baptized. At 2 p.m., she swore she'd never go back to her tent. By 5 p.m., she went back to retrieve a small ceramic statue of a squirrel she had left in a tree, because she couldn't bear to leave it behind.
In short, I drove from here to here.