What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is the excessive collection and retention of newspapers, trash, unopened sale items, clothing, paper, rotting food and even cats. Conditions in the home of a hoarder can become so extreme that all available space from floor to ceiling may be occupied and the day-to-day activities of the home's occupants are impeded.
Hoarders become emotionally attached to everything. They are unable to distinguish trash from treasures. Hoarding "feels right" to the hoarder, in spite of health and safety consequences.
Hoarding does not recognize race, gender, nationality, level of education or socio-economic bracket. While more prevalent in older adults, hoarding is estimated to affect 350 households per 100,000 people. Based on that estimate, Fairfax County, with a population of over one million, could have as many as 3,500 cases of hoarding.
While less prevalent, animal hoarding poses a serious health threat to the resident, the community and the animals being kept.
Animal overpopulation in a home leads to unhealthy waste accumulation, starvation, disease and animal death. Decomposing remains also adds to the unhealthy environment.
Typically, an animal hoarder is unaware of the filth and odor actually present in and around the home, and insists the animals are being cared for appropriately.
Signs of Hoarding
Hoarding is not limited to any age, race, gender or nationality. Hoarding behavior can begin early in life but is more prevalent in older adults. Hoarders can be of any educational or socio-economic level. They are unaware that their living circumstances pose a danger to themselves and to others. They are unable to change unsafe conditions on their own.
- Extreme collection and storage of items in the home and in the yard.
- Accumulation of combustible materials (newspapers, magazines and rubbish).
- Blocked exits (doors/windows).
- Narrow pathways in the home.
- Rat and/or insect infestations.
- Rotting food and/or used food containers.
- Human and/or animal waste.
- Long-term neglect of home maintenance.
- Non-working utilities, such as heat, running water, sewer and refrigeration.