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Scenes from a crisis

Prince William County in Virginia is one of the highest-income counties in the United States, but it has seen thousands of home foreclosures since the credit crunch started to bite in 2007. In June 2008, Piotr Malecki and writer Tomasz Zalewski went in search of the human stories behind the headlines.

The break-in
Deputy Sheriff Rick Booth knocks on the door, then waits for a few seconds. There is no answer, so he picks the lock. He enters cautiously, shining a torch into the gloom, his Colt firearm at the ready. 'You never know who is waiting inside', he explains. These days, Deputy Booth deals with house evictions on a daily basis. The departure
Tai Whitten's friends are piling her belongings into a trailer. Her life is being boxed up. Ten years ago she and her husband bought their house for $100,000. A couple of years later, the bank suggested they take out additional credit to do up their home. 'You should do it', they said, 'everyone around here is modernising.' They put on a new roof, modernised the kitchen, built a garage, terrace and patio. They were living the dream. At the top of the market, the value of their home had soared to $490,000. The catastrophe came suddenly. Following an illness, Tai lost her job and her husband in quick succession. She stopped paying the mortgage, and the value of her home slumped to $135,000. She is going to move in with her father.The auction
Outside the courthouse in Manassas, a number of foreclosed homes are up for auction. Eight year old Megan McNulty is playing. Her mother, Kelly, sits under the shade of a tree, listening to the auctioneer describing the properties on offer. There is only one other buyer. Despite the bargains available, no bids are made.

The arrival
Mohamud Ali, his wife Fadumo and their five children are looking around their newly purchased house in Manassas. At $200,000, the house cost half of what it was worth a year ago. The Somali family are among the beneficiaries of the subprime crisis. They can't wait to move into their new home.The suicide
In July 2008 Carlene Balderrama, 53, shot herself to death at her home in Taunton, Massachusets, 90 minutes before her foreclosed home was scheduled to be sold at auction. Earlier that day Balderrama faxed a letter to her mortgage company. It read 'By the time you foreclose on my house I'll be dead.'
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