Hoarding Task Force
The Stevens Point Police Department is part of the Portage County Hoarding Task Force, which provides support and help to persons dealing with hoarding.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a mental health issue that has public safety implications.
- Excessive acquisition of stuff (not universal in all persons that hoard)
- Emotional attachment to possessions and anxiety around letting go of items
- Fear that getting rid of something will also get rid of memories
- Can be associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and trauma.
Hoarding results in
- Living spaces that cannot be used for their intended purposes
- Significant emotional distress or physical impairment
- Emotional distress to those close to the person who is hoarding
- Financial stress
- Multiple health and safety issues
- Home may be deemed unfit for habilitation and could result in eviction or other action from local authorities.
Causes of Hoarding
Hoarding behavior has multiple internal and external causes including biological, psychological, and social factors.
- There is some evidence that hoarding behavior can be passed down genetically from parent to child.
- People may learn hoarding behavior from family members. Some may have the opposite reaction and want nothing to do with hoarding.
- People who hoard may have underlying trauma, unresolved loss or mood disorders
- Hoarding behavior may be an attempt to fill a void resulting from loss
- Hoarding may be an attempt to manage anxiety or stress
- Person may be unaware of underlying causes and their effort on behavior.
- Positive social relationships can lower the severity of hoarding
- Negative interactions in relationships can increase severity of hoarding
- Major life events like a death in the family, divorce, or life transitions can worsen hoarding behavior
- Social isolation, embarrassment and the social stigma of hoarding can interfere in receiving treatment or asking for help.
Health and Safety Risks of Hoarding
Physical Safety Risks include
- Fire hazards including lack of working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Blocked exits
- Risk of falls/falling items causing injuries
- Lack of routine home maintenance
- Structural damage to building from increased weight and volume of clutter
- Risk of eviction and homelessness.
Health Risks include
- Poor hygiene (cannot use bathroom)
- Poor nutrition (cannot use kitchen)
- Neglect of medical needs
- Neglect of mental health needs
- Poor financial management
- Physical problems caused by sleeping somewhere other than in a bed
- Asthma, allergies, headaches, and other conditions caused by dust and mold
- Rodents/insect infestation
- Bacterial infections and/or parasites from exposure to waste.
Helping a Person with their Hoarding
Do not attempt to clean out a home that poses a potential heath or safety risk without consulting professionals.
- Build and maintain trust at all times
- Listen carefully to the person’s fears and concerns; set aside your agenda
- Have a conversation if you have concerns, not a judgmental or defensive argument
- Create a goal together or work towards a goal that the person hoarding has for themselves
- Seek therapy from a professional therapist. Family should take on the role of supporter and encourager.
- Force the person to clean, or get rid of their possessions. It needs to be a process and at their own will**
- Forcibly move a person who is hoarding, or force a clean-out. This can make the situation much worse**
- Get defensive, shame or blame the person who is hoarding
- Attempt to give therapy to the person hoarding if you are not a licensed therapist.
**Local authorities must enforce housing codes and may deem a home unfit for habitation, force someone to leave, or give deadlines for clean out
For more information about hoarding or how to support a person who hoards, contact:
Portage County Health and Human Services 715-345-5350 option 2
Aging and Disability Resource Center of Portage County - 715-346-1401