Friday, July 13, 2012

Hoarding Gets a Human Face

logo of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco

However you feel about "San Francisco values," here's one I hope you can rejoice in: providing a wide range of free services to people with compulsive hoarding issues.

I knew the Mental Health Association of San Francisco was a leader in this arena, with a long-running annual conference and a range of services — but until last night, I didn't realize the full extent of the services offered. I attended a meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO-SFBA), and heard from the project coordinator for the Peer-Led Hoarding Response Team, as well as three of the peer responders.

I'm fairly well educated about hoarding issues, but there's nothing quite like listening to peer responders telling you their own stories. One woman told us how her daughters did a clean-out of her home, with her consent — but it was a shock when she came back home, because the clean-out team removed much more than she was expecting, including her good china and all her flatware. And within a year or so, her home was back in the same condition it was before the clean-out. She told us how she saw a show on Oprah, and finally realized she was not alone.

Things are much better for her now, although she says "I try to tell myself that I'm a work in progress." (And aren't we all, in some manner? I just loved that sentiment.)

John Franklin, the project coordinator, told us that the team often talks in terms of problems related to collecting and discarding, rather than using the term hoarding. So you'll read — on a flyer entitled Got Too Much Stuff? — that peer responders "self-identify as peers who have personal experience with collecting and difficulty in discarding objects."

John also mentioned that a city-mandated clean-out can cost $8,000 to $10,000 — and if the underlying issues aren't addressed, the problem will be back in a year, just as the peer responder said happened in her situation. He also said that 2-4% of the population is estimated to have hoarding issues — the same percentage as has Alzheimer's.

So hurrah for peer responders, who can help those ready to make a change, and connect with them in a way that no one else can.

Related Post:
Good Book: Digging Out

Update: Just to make things clear, I'm personally a proud adherent to many San Francisco values, including the city's support of its gay / LGBT community. 

1 comment:

AmyeToTheRescue! said...

Great post Jeri. Thank you!