Posted on: May 14th 2024   •    Posted in: General News

Hoarding Awareness Week 2024

This week is Hoarding Awareness Week. We want to raise awareness about hoarding and help you understand a little more about some of the reasons why people hoard and the challenges it brings.

We met with Karen and Gill, our tenancy sustainment and hoarding officers, to discuss their job roles and the impact their support has on our residents.

Hoarding disorder is considered a mental health condition, but you might experience elements of hoarding as part of another mental or physical health problem.

There are generally two types of hoarders:

  1. A hoarder with no insight. They don’t see that there is a problem and don’t feel they need help with anything.
  2. A hoarder with insight. These residents understand they have a problem but are afraid to engage with the relevant services.

Karen says, “There is a difference between general untidiness and hoarding. Hoarding is when your home is no longer functioning for its intended purpose. This could be being unable to use the toilet, sleep in a bed or use external doors to escape in the event of a fire. We also need to understand that these residents are attached to the items they have in their home, which means we can’t just go in with bin bags and start throwing things away.”

Karen and Gill are committed to seeing the resident as a whole person first, gaining their trust and building confidence to help them regain their lives.

Gill says, “There is often something more fundamental underlying the resident’s behaviour. We want to help them by understanding their situation, gaining their trust and working together to resolve the situation.”

What our team does can only be described as life-changing. Karen and Gill always ensure they get to know the person the person before tackling the hoarding issue.

Karen explains, “We are not there to look at the house; we are there to look at them. We don’t focus on the hoard but on the person.”

Karen continues to describe the triggers of what can cause someone to hoard, “We generally see two types of residents who are hoarders. The first is primary hoarding, where the person doesn’t know anything different and has only ever lived in this situation. They have only lived a life with hoarding. The second, secondary hoarding, comes about after a life-changing event, for example, losing a job or the death of a family member. It’s so important that we understand the underlying events so that we know how best to help the person.”

When asked what they find the most challenging part of their jobs, Gill says, “Sometimes a resident will be adamant that there is nothing wrong with their home, and therefore cannot see the risk they may be putting themselves in from a health and safety perspective.” Karen says, “When I learn more about their life stories, what’s happened to them and what has caused the issues, I just want to help them improve the situation. It’s tough when their mental illness gets the best of them.”

When discussing how we get referrals for potential hoarding, Karen explains that sometimes she relies on experience. She has learned how to spot hoarding tendencies outside the home. She will then try to engage with the resident to see if there is any way she can help.

Generally, referrals will come through to our Supported team through external contractors who have spotted something whilst in a home or one of our team members on a home visit.

From the referral, one of our tenancy sustainment and hoarding officers will begin regular communication with the resident to learn more about them and their issues and confirm a hoarding problem. Once the resident has agreed to speak to us and let us into their home, and we can see the full extent of the issue, we can begin to work with the resident to remove some of the hoarding.

When a resident bravely decides to reach out to us for support, the team ensures regular check-ins; this not only encourages the resident to keep going but also reminds them how proud they should be of themselves for making a start. The process is not a short one, but it gives the resident a better quality of life. If the resident wishes, they can also opt to self-refer to six sessions of MIND counselling to help understand their hoarding disorder.

Gill and Karen agreed that the best part of their job is seeing the residents’ pride in their work. Sitting on chairs that they couldn’t before, or using their own toilet, basic functions that everyone should be able to use in their home. As the hoarding levels reduce, the resident’s confidence levels increase. With the boost from Karen and Gill, residents can live safely in their homes and turn their lives around, one bin bag at a time.

Here is a story from one of our residents:

“My hoarding issue started in 2022 in my second year of uni. I have never been the best at organising or cleaning due to what I now know to be down to ADHD, but before then, while it was sometimes messy, it wasn’t in the state it was when Karen was called in to help; it was liveable and clean.

However, shortly after this, my now ex-husband, who was very abusive, did something to hurt our son mentally. I took control and let my son decide if he wanted to see him, which he didn’t. My ex-husband started being emotionally abusive again, telling me how I’m such a bad mum, calling social services and the school. He would tell them my house was dirty and that I didn’t care about my children (which wasn’t true, and the school and social services closed the case). This significantly affected me, and jobs in the house started to pile up. First, the washing, then the rubbish and washing up until my bedroom became a dumping ground for the bags. I couldn’t use my utility room and resorted to buying more clothes; we’d eat off paper plates and live off ready meals because we could only use the microwave.

I knew I needed help, but I was so massively ashamed of not being able to do it myself that I hid it. Then Nova came round, and so did Karen.

Karen has helped me in so many ways! She has broken the clear down into small steps, so I don’t feel like I need to do it all and don’t get overwhelmed and unfocused. She has been so encouraging when I’ve made good progress; on the last visit, the bags of stuff cleared totalled 165 bags, and she keeps me in check when I don’t make the progress agreed the week before.

She’s helped me get back to creating better habits, finding ways of breaking tasks down, and getting each group of items its space, and it’s all been done with kindness and empathy. But more than that, she’s helped me get my home back. Karen’s helped me make the house a safe space for my babies. I honestly can’t thank her enough for that!

If you’re in the situation I was in, you’re not alone. I know it’s terrifying; I thought I would have the house taken away, which stopped me from asking for help. I didn’t realise how much support I could have; if you are in my position, please contact Havebury. They want you to have a safe and happy home as much as you do, and they don’t judge you; they truly do just want to help you.

Karen has been an absolute godsend to my family; the team will be there for you if needed. Also, tell a trusted friend, too. It makes the whole process easier, not bottling it up or thinking you have to hide it because there is no shame in struggling and needing help; we all need a hand sometimes.”

If you think you need help, please talk to a member of our Supported team via email at, or you can call 0300 3300 900, entering extension number 7307 when prompted.



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