Task Forces Tackle Dangerous—and Disgusting—Hoarding

California team has been trained to fight gag reflex

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 27, 2013 12:47 PM CDT

(Newser) – How'd you like to spend your days walking on piles of newspapers soaked with rat urine, helping hoarders clear their houses of not just junk but often gross junk, from mildewed papers to bottles of urine? That's what the members of California's Orange County Task Force on Hoarding do, and today the New York Times offers an inside look at the team's challenges, which range from learning to talk to hoarders to figuring out the best route out of a hoarder's home. The team consists of people from various fields, including a fire inspector and city code official. "No one discipline has all the expertise needed," says a social work professor.

It's just one of more than 85 such task forces that have sprung up around the country, as local officials look to protect hoarders and their neighbors from the risks such houses pose: Utilities may get shut off after bills get lost, prompting the use of candles and heightening fire risk; with no running water, sufferers may use bottles and their yards as bathrooms, bringing in the threat of disease via rats and maggots. The Orange County task force has learned to suppress gagging while on the job. Then there's the cost involved in cleanup, with the messiest homes costing at least $20,000 to clean up, says the fire inspector, who has also had to tangle with armed hoarders and their dogs. Click through for the full piece.

A worker is shown during a cleanup of a hoarder's home in Las Vegas.
A worker is shown during a cleanup of a hoarder's home in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/City of Las Vegas via Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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