Health authorities on Vancouver Island are trying to get a handle on hoarding
Island Health says there are hoarders living in approximately 11,000 homes in the region and that one in 25 people in Greater Victoria is directly affected by hoarding. The Hoarding Education and Action Team (HEAT) has now launched a website and a telephone line at 250.361.0227 where people can go to request help.
However, the problem is not limited to Vancouver Island.
Vancouver’s Hoarding Action Response Team has tackled 350 cases of hoarding in the two years alone.
Carli Edwards, the assistant director of inspections for the City of Vancouver, says Vancouver is the only city in North America that brings a team together to tackle this issue
Edwards says a number of agencies is represented on the team, including inspectors, fire department, and mental health workers from the Vancouver Coastal Health.
Out of the 350 cases the team has dealt with, 250 have been deemed closed. One hundred are still active, according to Edwards.
Edwards says the involvement of mental health workers is necessary to build a relationship with a person affected.
“We approach each case the same, and once we develop a case — it is very individual how we work,” she says.
The workers’ job is to explain health and safety risks associated with hoarding and reconnect them with the community.
“In many cases, the people are very isolated from their friends sand family,” says Edwards.
The firefighters are involved to estimate the dangers involved.
“It is not just a prevalence that a fire will happen, but if a fire happens, it is much more likely that a fire will be serious and injury either the person inside the house or a first responder going to the fire,” says Edwards.
She says hoarding was always a problem in the community.
“But each agency handled it on their own, working within their own resources. We had a couple of very serious incidents, one of them being a serious fire where the person died in the fire. They died because they could not get out, and no firefighter could get in to rescue them. This was a wake-up call.”
Author – Jeffrey Avery