A taskforce in Wales is calling for better understanding and support for individuals struggling with hoarding, recognizing it as a mental health condition. Hoarding often comes with shame and embarrassment, leaving people feeling like they have a “dark secret.” Rosemary Creedy, a woman from Risca, has experienced this firsthand, feeling the need to keep her hoarding habit hidden from others. She is ashamed of the clutter and chaos in her home, making her living room completely inaccessible. The overwhelming nature of hoarding sometimes leaves her feeling despondent, but she has found hope in addressing the underlying causes of her behavior.
Many hoarders face the threat of eviction or clearance, which only adds to their distress. Hoarding is not a reflection of how individuals want to live or perceive themselves. They often prefer an organized and tidy environment, and the clutter goes against their true nature. Quick fixes and invasive clearances are not the solution, but rather a slow and incremental progress that gives them hope.
Experts in hoarding, including psychologists, the fire service, and social housing, have come together to protect hoarders from losing their homes due to safety breaches. While homeowners like Rosemary Creedy are not at risk of eviction, tenants can face court orders and eviction if their hoarding poses a safety risk. However, there is a growing recognition that hoarding should be treated as a mental health condition and not solely as a matter of eviction.
Holistic Hoarding, an organization that takes a comprehensive approach to hoarding cases, has successfully prevented evictions and helped individuals regain control over their lives. They consider the underlying causes of hoarding before starting the clearing process, working with clients for up to two years. Court-ordered clearances often worsen the issue, leading to a high relapse rate among clients. Kevin Smith, who experienced seven collections, now runs a support group to assist others facing similar challenges.
A study by the National Association of Social Workers revealed that focusing solely on clearances does not lead to significant improvements for hoarders. In fact, in 8% of cases, the situation worsened. The taskforce in Wales aims to bring together various services and organizations to provide a united approach to supporting hoarders. Their goal is to prioritize the safety and well-being of individuals, rather than resorting to eviction as a last resort. This approach has gained the support of councils and housing associations, such as United Welsh, which has signed a “no evictions” policy for tenants seeking support for their hoarding condition. The emphasis is on building relationships, having honest conversations, and working together to tackle safety issues and help people continue living in their homes.