In New York City
This is Lisa
"I'm going to be homeless tomorrow."
Lisa is a 59-year-old woman. She was sitting on the cold sidewalk on this 34-degree day with a cup and a sign. I put a dollar in her cup and asked if we could talk awhile and if I could take a few photos of her. She said yes, adding that she hates photos of herself.
I sat down on the cold sidewalk next to her and asked for her story.
Words poured out of her. "It is all my fault, drugs and alcohol; I did it to myself."
For the past three years, Lisa lived in a rented room in the Bronx, an illegal sublet through an acquaintance. The landlord found out, and both she and the acquaintance are being evicted tomorrow.
Her immediate future looks bleak, nights at a homeless shelter and days spent at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.
This is not new territory for Lisa. She has been homeless before, spending 10 years on the streets. She worked her way out of homelessness through the help of workers at Goddard Riverside Community Center, who helped her find an entry-level job cleaning floors at a fast-food place.
But she hasn't always been homeless. Born and raised in Centereach, Long Island, New York, she has an older brother and sister who still live on Long Island. Although she talks with them once or twice a month, neither of them know she is homeless.
Growing up, her life wasn't ideal. Her father abused her mother and brother before dying when Lisa was 9. Her mother died when she was 16, the catalyst that pushed her into a life driven by addiction.
Before her mother's death, Lisa had experimented with marijuana, but after her mother's passing, she began to drink heavily and regularly smoke crack cocaine.
Ten years ago, tragedy struck again when her fiance was hit by a car and killed. Lisa still breaks down in tears when she talks about it and even wishes for her own death.
She reassures me she has no intention of taking her own life but also says, "I wish I would be hit by a car and die quickly."
Lisa is not without employable skills. She earned an associate's degree in recreational therapy from Suffolk County Community College and worked briefly at a community center in Suffolk County. However, her addiction to drugs and alcohol cost her that job, and she has never worked in her field again.
Although she hasn't received medical care for her addiction and depression, she has made attempts to free herself from addiction, participating in several 12-step programs. But she has never been able to finish them.
It is my own fault. I was lazy."
Lisa does see some hope for her future. She is currently enrolled in a program in the Bronx called East BOOM Community Health Center, providing physical and mental health rehabilitation.
Hopefully, her concrete pillow will be short-lived.