Posted on January 26, 2012 by HSC
As mentioned in the Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst: Developing a Risk Management Plan article regarding risk management, hoarding is one of the fastest growing risks in social housing. Tenants who accumulate goods and materials in their living space can pose a serious danger to not only themselves and other tenants, but you as a housing provider.
Hoarding: the accumulation of possessions that are useless and that interfere with the ability to function”, hoarding may endanger not only the health and safety of the individual, but also their surrounding community. (from Hoarding: A Community Health Problem)
There are four key reasons why hoarders are a higher risk for homeowners’ insurers (and for insurers of non-profit housing providers):
The accumulation of materials around the home could increase the risk of a fire. The top causes of fires are related to cooking, heating and electricity. In the kitchen, an accumulation of grease, food items and trash increases the potential for a fire. Paper or other flammable materials near heating systems or electrical wires increase the risk of fire, but also burn quickly.
If a friend or family member is injured in a hoarder’s home, a claim could be filed against the landlord’s insurance policy for not addressing the problem.
Possessions that obstruct or block exits could make it difficult to escape during an emergency and for public safety personnel to enter a home.
Hoarders are likely to ignore or delay fixing electrical or heating issues, plumbing problems and roof repairs, which can lead to a greater number of claims.
In the wake of the 200 Wellesley fire, the Greater Toronto Apartment Association (GTAA) and the Federal Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), which together represent about 460,000 housing units in the province, made it known that they would like guidance on how to spot and warn officials about hoarding safety risks.
One of the leaders in the field of tackling the problem of hoarding is the San Francisco Task Force on Compulsive Hoarding (SFTFCH). They recently completed a groundbreaking study on the estimated 12,000-25,000 adults in San Francisco that have hoarding behaviours, through which they generated a number of recommendations for housing providers.
1. Develop an assessment/crisis team to respond to referrals about hoarding cases and coordinate appropriate next steps to facilitate meaningful, long-term improvement for individuals.
2. Increase access to treatment for hoarding, including in the person’s home. Treatment can include therapists, organizers, coaches, and peers.
3. Expand support groups available locally, including peer support groups and groups for family members, and provide training for peer support facilitators. Build on the successes of support groups by offering groups for people at different stages of dealing with their hoarding behaviours, ranging from early awareness and those just starting out to those with substantial experience working on behavioural changes.
4. Create a services roadmap for people with hoarding behaviours and their families, service providers, and landlords so that people know what agencies to contact in different situations and have a way to identify and seek assistance.
5. Establish a single point of entry into the system of supports and resources that uses a single form for referrals, follows the services roadmap, and engages the assessment team.
6. Develop evaluation guidelines for landlords that are coordinated with fire department and health regulations.
7. Provide long-term case management services as an extension of initial assessment and treatment.
8. Offer training for therapists, 211/311 staff, landlords, agency staff, and families; recruit and educate trainers; and provide cross-training for identification/screening/assessment across agencies.
9. Ensure overarching coordination and evaluation of recommended priorities (hoarding and cluttering “czar”); track implementation of priorities and evaluate success.