Home' Christchurch Mail : October 4th 2012 Contents 8 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, OCTOBER 4, 2012
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toll-free on 0800 845 524
to make a time to visit.
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Come to Geraldine and unwind
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For more information contact
Now open for viewing!
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2a McKenzie Street, Geraldine
0800 VILLAGE (845 524)
Styx Mill Road Redwood / Parkhouse Road
Sockburn / Metro Place (o Dyers Road), Bromley
PHONE 03 941 7513
Struggling with the chaos
Abbie Napier looks at the problems faced by hoarders.
PILE UP: It's difficult for a hoarder to keep their
home clean when items pile up preventing
THERE ARE potentially hundreds of
houses in Canterbury choc-a-block with
newspapers, plastic bottles, and in extreme
cases, collections of faeces, human hair and
Unfortunately many of these cases do not
come to light until the problem is so great
that it costs thousands of dollars to clean up
and years of counselling to resolve.
New Zealand has been slow to recognise
hoarding as a mental illness and there is
not yet designated funding in place to help
Hoarding, as an illness in its own right,
will only be added to the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The manual is the primary authority on
Age Concern community health officer
and registered nurse Kerry Howley said
hoarding was a serious condition.
People have often thought that these
hoarders want to live like this. They don't,
but they simply cannot help themselves,''
Ms Howley has seen the extreme side of
hoarding, often visiting their homes on
behalf of Age Concern.
This is a very serious problem,'' she said.
I visited a house recently where the weight
of the stuff this man had collected had col-
lapsed the floor down to the dirt.
The roof actually did collapse later as
well, but the stuff inside the house actually
held it up and prevented it crushing any-
He was raising a family of hedgehogs in
These extreme cases are not as few and
far between as we would like to imagine.
Ms Howley has been dealing with two
brothers living together, whose quarter
acre section is so full they went into the roof
space and ran floorboards between
doorframes for shelving.
Social worker Marty Leith said he had
come across a man during his private work
in the community who could no longer
reach his television and was using a 20 foot
fishing rod to turn it on and off.
He said the earthquakes might have
acted as a catalyst for some people already
dealing with these hoarding compulsions
who were now struggling under the weight
of their collections.
City council environmental health officer
Graeme Pulley said he recently dealt with
an elderly woman living with blocked
drains and no toilet.
In this case she had a bath full of excre-
ment and she didn't want anyone in the
house because of that,'' he said.
Ms Howley said many hoarders were
quite orderly but the problem arose when
large parts of the house could not be
accessed for cleaning. The most serious
cases could then develop into squalor --
where living conditions deteriorated and
became a bio-hazard.
Ms Howley has encountered properties
where she has been forced to wear dipos-
able booties over her shoes to prevent them
absorbing the pools of urine on the floor.
Many hoarders feared people, and often
would not let tradespeople into their home
to fix broken pipes and electricity.
In most cases, Ms Howley said, the
hoarder recognised their living situation
was not normal'' and was ashamed of it.
Council tackles about a dozen serious hoarding cases a year
THE CITY council has a role to play in
dealing with the city's hoarders, particu-
larly when the situation descends into
Environmental compliance team leader
Tony Dowson said council health officers
had pretty wide powers of entry''.
The team sees about a dozen cases of
serious hoarding each year, but each case
can take four to six weeks to resolve.
Council environmental officer Graeme
Pulley deals face to face with reported
A lot of our hoarding complaints are
from an affected neighbour -- it's usually
visual,'' he said.
The city council can issue formal cleans-
ing orders or notices which require the
owner to have a certain area cleaned up in
a set period of time.
Usually it is up to the hoarder them-
selves to fulfil the order, and the council
very rarely will commit its own people or
If the city council did clean up the
hoarder's property, they would be billed for
the cost -- possibly thousands of dollars.
Few could pay, meaning the council could
lodge a charge on the land. When next sold,
the council would collect the bill from the
sale proceeds. This was only a solution in
very extreme cases.
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