It starts with compassion: helping “hoarders”

In light of a recent house fire in Eureka, Humboldt Bay Fire wants locals to reach out, and help them map “hoarder homes.” Those houses, where personal belongings are stuffed floor to ceiling, can be especially hazardous for fire fighters. Once the department knows about a hoarder home, dispatchers can alert first responders to the danger if they must respond to a call there. Hopefully, the knowledge that their houses are causing danger to others will make the hoarders reach out for help. There are Chicago cleaning services for hoarders available, if they do want to overcome the problem.

But how do we help the people? The ones who accumulate what fire fighters call an “excess of belongings”? Amanda Windstead, the Deputy Director of Mental Health and Adult Services (at the Department of Health and Human Services) says, the first thing we must understand, is that hoarding is a compulsion that could affect anyone. It is not a character flaw.

“It’s not a matter of being lazy. It’s not a matter of being a bad house keeper or a bad neighbor. It’s a recognizable and diagnosable mental illness.” Windstead explains. “I think when we’re thinking about solutions, it’s really important to remember the people who are struggling with this as a problem. To be KIND. To be THOUGHTFUL when we plan out interventions.”

Interventions are possible, if sometimes a little complex. When it comes to dealing with the objects themselves, its good to start small and focus on safety. Next seek treatment. Adult protective services has a 24 help line, for friends, neighbors, family, and anyone reaching out for help conquering hoarding to call. That number is 707-476-2100.