How does hoarding affect the community?

What is hoarding?

Hoarding is the excessive collection and retention of items, even items of little or no value. People who hoard have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. As a result, hoarding leads to cluttered living spaces that are difficult to use for their intended purposes. In severe cases, hoarding can cause significant distress, disability and social isolation.

What are some common hoarding behaviors?

Some common hoarding behaviors include:

– Acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that appear to most people to be useless or of little value
– Severe clutter in living spaces that makes it difficult to use furniture or appliances as intended
– Inability to control the urge to acquire and save items
– Great difficulty discarding items even when the items are no longer useful or needed
– Distress or impairment of work or social life caused by hoarding

How prevalent is hoarding in society?

Hoarding disorder affects an estimated 2-6% of the population to some degree. About 80% of people with hoarding problems also suffer from other mental health disorders, most commonly major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Hoarding tends to first appear in early adolescence and gets worse as the person ages. It is more common among older adults—a 2020 study found prevalence rates of hoarding at 5% for people in their mid 50s, and 25% for those in their late 70s.

How does hoarding affect family members?

Living with a person who hoards can have many negative effects on family members:

– Family conflict – Hoarding behaviors often cause interpersonal conflict within families.
– Mental health issues – Family members of people who hoard have high rates of depression and anxiety.
– Physical health issues – Cluttered and hazardous living conditions pose physical health risks to family members.
– Financial strain – Hoarding behaviors can lead to waste and debt for families.
– Social isolation – Families withdraw from social connections out of shame or frustration.
– Restricted use of living spaces – Clutter makes homes difficult or impossible to use normally.

Children of parents who hoard are at high risk for developing hoarding behaviors themselves. They may also face shame and social stigma.

How does compulsive hoarding affect communities?

Hoarding affects communities in several important ways:

Property values and neighborhood aesthetics

– Poor exterior maintenance of a hoarder’s home can reduce curb appeal and property values for the entire neighborhood.
– Unkempt properties cluttered with junk can detract from neighborhood aesthetics.
– Abandoned hoarded properties that fall into disrepair can become neighborhood eyesores and fire hazards.

Public health and safety

– Hoarding poses public health risks, including rodent/insect infestations, mold, and fire hazards.
– First responders often cannot easily access homes to handle emergencies.
– Old food and clutter provide harborage for pests that can spread to nearby homes.
– Hoarded homes often have blocked exits and pose fire hazards.

Municipal costs

– Hoarding puts strain on municipal departments, such as fire, public health, and code enforcement.
– Clean-up of hoarded properties is extremely labor intensive and costly for cities.
– Cities often pursue legal action to condemn and demolish properties that are abandoned and structurally unsound.

Department Costs and Challenges of Hoarded Properties
Fire department Difficulty accessing homes, increased fire risks, need for extra personnel on scene
Code enforcement Complaints from neighbors, costly abatement procedures, property condemnations
Waste management Higher than normal waste removal needs, difficulty collecting trash
Public health Pest control, responding to unsanitary conditions, disease risks

Social and community relations

– Hoarding can create tensions between neighbors due to aesthetics, property values, and pest control.
– Cases that make the local news can stigmatize entire neighborhoods.
– Residents may feel unsafe if there are abandoned hoarded homes on their streets.
– Public resources have to be diverted to deal with hoarding cases.

How does hoarding affect the elderly?

Hoarding poses unique risks and challenges for the elderly:

– Fall hazards – Cluttered homes create tripping and falling hazards for seniors.
– Caregiving difficulties – Hoarding behaviors interfere with in-home caregiving tasks.
– Isolation – Hoarding may worsen social isolation among the elderly.
– Functional decline – Hoarding can accelerate loss of independence skills needed for daily living.
– Emergency response – Clutter slows emergency response times, which is dangerous for elderly.
– Nursing home transition – Hoarding behaviors make placement in care facilities more difficult.
– Health issues – Hoarding contributes to poor sanitation, disease risks, and mental distress.

Adult protective services often have to get involved when severe hoarding in elderly individuals poses health or safety risks. Refusal of care by elder hoarders presents complex ethical dilemmas.

What are the impacts of animal hoarding?

Animal hoarding, in which someone takes in and fails to properly care for a large number of pets, leads to several community concerns:

– Animal cruelty – Hoarded pets suffer from neglect, lack of veterinary care, starvation, and filthy conditions.
– Disease risks – Hoarded animals can spread parasites and illnesses to people and other pets.
– Strained animal shelters – When hoarded animals are surrendered or seized, local shelters become overwhelmed.
– Costs to local government – Animal cruelty investigations and care for hoarded animals is expensive.
– Odor and noise nuisances – Hoarded pets cause foul odors and noise that affect entire neighborhoods.

In many hoarding cases, dead or severely ill animals are discovered in disturbing conditions. Animal hoarders often show persisting attachment to the animals in spite of their inability to properly care for them.

What strategies help communities address hoarding issues?

Some strategies that help communities address hoarding include:

– **Hoarding task forces** – Cross-agency groups coordinate the community’s response to hoarding cases. This improves efficiency and ensures consistent practices.

– **Awareness campaigns** – Outreach and education reduces stigma and helps households recognize hoarding behaviors early so they can seek help.

– **Mental health training** – Training public safety and municipal workers helps ensure compassionate and appropriate responses to hoarding calls.

– **Reporting procedures** – Clear reporting procedures for concerns about hoarding helps agencies track issues and provide help earlier.

– **Hoarding regulations** – Municipal codes that address hoarding can include mandatory inspections after complaints, allowing for earlier interventions.

– **Counseling and support groups** – Cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on hoarding can help change hoarding behaviors over time. Support groups provide needed understanding.

– **Harm reduction approach** – Rather than forced clean-outs, a non-judgemental stance focused on health/safety helps hoarders make gradual improvements.

– **Follow-up care** – Continued mental health support and home visits prevents reoccurrence of hazardous hoarding after clean-outs.


Hoarding behaviors, especially severe cases, have significant detrimental effects on communities. Cluttered living conditions create health and safety risks, drive down property values, strain public resources, harm pets and elderly residents, and isolate households. A compassionate, coordinated public health approach is needed to support residents with hoarding issues while protecting neighborhoods. With appropriate treatment and support, the negative impacts of hoarding on communities can be reduced over time.

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