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Hoarding Task Force Begins Work

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POSTED: Friday, April 16, 2010 - 3:18pm

UPDATED: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 8:02am

El Paso - There are people who are pack rats and then there are those who are much worse.

Several local agencies are joining forces now to combat hoarding.

Trash, piles of junk and rodents.  The pictures speak volumes.  They are just one example of a potentially deadly problem known as hoarding...

"This where she goes to the bathroom in these buckets...urine and feces."

Thanks to shows like A&E's "Hoarder", hoarding's gotten national exposure.  Locally, the problem is also getting more attention.  Last week, El Paso's newly-formed Hoarding Task Force held its first meeting...

"Hoarding is a major issue in our community. It's probably an underlying problem a lot of people don't report, that's why we decided we needed to have a task forced effectively address the situation."

Several city and county agencies came together to tackle the problem after news of this house fire broke in Northeast El Paso where a 71-year-old woman died.  She had so much stuff piled up, she could not escape and firefighters could not get in very quickly.  Currently, Adult Protective Services is working five hoarding cases but they believe there are more out there that have not been reported because from the outside, you cannot always see the problem that is building inside.  And investigating these cases is tricky...

"There's a misconception that once you call APS, there's going to be a cleanup and the situation will be cleared right away. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen."

Investigators cannot force their way into a home without the person's permission unless a judge decides it's necessary.  And even in cases where cleanup is ordered, the problem does not stop.  If a doctor finds a hoarding client mentally competent, they move back home and the cycle often continues.  The task force hopes by coming together and educating the public, everyone can do their part to find the best possible solutions for these complex cases.  Melanie Olivas, NewsChannel 9.

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