Here at the Eviction Prevention desk we know the hardest cases involve hoarders. But we didn’t know just how hard they can be. Two recent cases have shown us the limits of our small organization when it comes to helping combat a very large problem.
In both instances, the clients were long-term tenants of subsidized units. They were in their mid-50s, with significant mental health issues. The state of their apartments was almost unlivable. Their landlords, however, were very accommodating and gave CERA ample time to work with our clients. We spent months building rapport, discussing options, connecting to other support services. We really felt we could help our clients clean up their apartments and prevent eviction.
Why? The mind of a hoarder is strange terrain. Unlike tenants facing arrears, the hoarder often does not see the scope of their problem; even when faced with eviction, they will deny a need to change. CERA staff were overwhelmed. We spoke daily with clients, but also tried to co-ordinate property managers, lawyers, extreme cleaners and occupational therapists. In the end we failed primarily because of our clients’ resistance, but it also became clear that only a more fully-organized response would help the most extreme clients. What we need is a multi-disciplinary team armed with a consistent city-wide plan that encompasses all aspects of the hoarder’s problem, from initial resistance to possible relapse. Perhaps this is pie-in-the-sky thinking, especially in the current political climate, but a small initial investment in capital and ideas could payoff big time for tenants, landlords and city services alike.