19 Feb Helping people with hoarding live in healthier homes
Groundbreaking program offers an alternative to clean-outs and evictions
Feb 19, 2015—Hoarding threatens housing security for millions of people across America. But a new program offers an innovative strategy to deal with hoarding issues, one that could help people with hoarding maintain their housing and live in healthier homes.
The Hoarding Intervention and Tenancy Preservation Project tested a new method of hoarding intervention, and the results have been promising: 98 percent of participants were able to avoid losing their housing due to their hoarding issues.
The three-year initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Oak Foundation, grew out of a desire to address the root causes of hoarding behavior in order to offer a long-term solution. Through the program, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, working with Bay Cove Human Service’s Tenancy Preservation Project, assigned a case manager who served as a coach to each client. The case manager met regularly with the client to teach them sorting and other coping techniques to reduce the clutter and improve the safety of their homes.
What’s so innovative?
- Holistic approach. MBHP brings all parties together—the client, the landlord, the courts, and government entities—to work toward one goal: to make the home safe enough for the tenant to remain there.
- Proactive. There are opportunities to intervene before a situation becomes dire, improving the safety of the tenant as well as any first-responders (fire fighters, EMTs, etc.) who may be called to their home.
- Long-lasting impact. All participants, even those who left the program, were able to learn skills to help them reduce clutter.
- Cost-effectiveness. The program could save municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-out and eviction costs.
Only data of its kind
- Due to MBHP’s work administering rental assistance programs, the program was able to target a specific population: people with low and moderate incomes.
- Many participants were referred to the program as a way to avoid losing their housing, as opposed to seeking out help on their own. No other study on hoarding has documented work with these “involuntary” populations.
Fewer resources, more scrutiny
People with hoarding who live on low incomes face increased pressure. They have fewer resources and thus cannot rely on the workarounds others with hoarding may use, such as renting storage units, building additions to their homes, or moving to a new apartment when a landlord threatens eviction.
This population also lives with more scrutiny: Participants in voucher programs such as Section 8 are required to undergo regular inspections for health and safety. And since most low-income residents are tenants, they have landlords with a vested interest in maintaining the condition of the apartment. Some landlords think their only option for dealing with a tenant with hoarding is to evict. MBHP’s program offers them another option.
In addition to case-by-case interventions, MBHP has trained a total of 1,891 professionals in the U.S. and Canada in this promising intervention technique. The housing nonprofit is also partnering with State Senator Patricia Jehlen on legislation that would enhance services to seniors with hoarding statewide.
You can read more about this program in a new report from MBHP which includes program analysis as well as recommendations for communities looking to institute similar practices for hoarding intervention. The report, entitled Rethinking Hoarding Intervention: MBHP’s analysis of the Hoarding Intervention and Tenancy Preservation Project, is available online at www.mbhp.org/policy-reports.