Hoarding Support Services Network reduces risk of homelessness through cross-sector collaboration

Nov. 23, 2016

VHA Home HealthCareHoarding is a serious mental health issue that hides behind closed doors in our community. Often invisible to outsiders, hoarding is a mental health disorder that can significantly compromise one’s safety, well-being, and even their home.

With the help of a $186,000 Community Vitality grant, VHA Home HealthCare will create a hoarding support services network that is the first of its kind. This service network will allow VHA to build a customized service solution to tackle hoarding in our community, keeping those at risk safely housed.

Through cross-sector collaboration the Hoarding Support Services Network will improve service coordination between providers. Clients who hoard are complex and require a flexible and collaborative approach. The service network will:

  • Allow clients to access services in a timely and coordinated manner
  • Increase efficiency through coordination of services, supports, and enhanced collaborative partnerships
  • Develop best practices to increase the chances of successful intervention
  • Increase community safety through reduced risk of fire and other public safety issues in London and Middlesex County

Over 500 cases of hoarding have been identified locally, and VHA expects more to surface in the future. These cases are often identified by frontline service workers such as paramedics, occupational therapists as well as landlords, families, and neighbours. Individuals who experience hoarding often experience isolation and depression as a result of their behavior. Oftentimes, these individuals do don’t want to leave their homes for fear of someone coming into their home when they are gone.

Ultimately, the goal is to prevent homelessness. Frontline service works have discovered that an “extreme clean” approach is often unsuccessful with compulsive hoarding clients. Due to the deep attachment to their belongings, a more complex and tailored approach is required. There is currently a lack of services for individuals who hoard and the patchwork of services that does exist require better coordination in order to intervene effectively, as this is a very challenging population to serve. In addition to improving service coordination, the network will build the capacity of the community to effectively deal with hoarding behavior.

It’s not just a matter of going in and cleaning out the items, it’s a matter of working really closely with the clients one-to-one to not only get them the services that they need to make a better living space for themselves, but also to make a better life for themselves.”- Rebecca Bauer, Service Supervisor, Extreme Clean Program