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Foreclosure crisis creates surplus of empty homes in one California county

CALIFORNIA -- The first time Carey Mitchell saw her, Tammy was standing at an intersection near the 16th Street offramp from Highway 99. Her clothes looked dirty, her face tired. She held a cardboard sign asking for spare change.

Without thinking, Mitchell pulled her car to the side of the road. In an instant, Tammy was at her window. Mitchell rolled it down. "Do you need a place to sleep tonight?" she remembers asking. On a scrap of paper, Mitchell quickly sketched a map to a house a few miles away. It was Mitchell's house, but she didn't want it anymore.

She had decided to stop paying the home's mortgage. As she walked away, she handed the keys to Tammy, who stayed for three months before she was formally evicted this May. The nights Tammy spent there were the first she'd slept inside in more than three years.

When homes fall into foreclosure, former owners who won't leave on their own are kicked out. The houses stand empty until banks sell to new owners -- at least that's the way it usually worked before the foreclosure crisis.