Hoarding 620

The fire department will take the lead in co-ordinating a hoarding strategy, based on information from police, city departments and agencies in the mental health field. (File Photo)

Windsor's fire department on Wednesday announced a new strategy to deal with hoarding.

Fire chief Bruce Montone says hoarding is a safety and health concern.

Montone says there is more public awareness of hoarding today, due to reality TV shows such as Hoarders.

In a media release, Windsor Fire and Rescue said "a trend of increased cases of hoarding has developed in Windsor."

In Windsor, different groups have been dealing with the problem on their own.

Those groups will join a "hoarding coalition."

The fire department will take the lead in co-ordinating a strategy, based on information from police, city departments and agencies in the mental health field.

John Lee, assistant chief fire prevention officer, says hoarding causes problems for emergency crews.

If they're called to a fire and access is blocked because of a stockpile of papers, magazines and other material, safety becomes an issue, he said.

Lee describes the coalition as a "one-stop shopping service:"

"We're pooling all of our resources together, so if it's the health unit that receives the information, it's going to come to us," Lee said.  "If one of the other agencies receives the information, then it's disseminated and we take the most appropriate approach, depending on the severity of the issue."

Lee says hoarding affects a whole range of people; there is not one specific group.

People who hoard often do so for different reasons. For some, it provides a source of comfort and security. Others have a fear of forgetting or losing items.

"A lot of folks are really reluctant to have us come in and provide any support," said Diane Middleton of the Canadian Mental Health Association. "Sometimes it’s through an emergency situation or there’s a landlord situation where they’re unable to get in the unit they’re forced to get outside help."

Barb Iacona of Family Services Windsor-Essex said "hoarding is a community issue."

She wants the new coalition to provide "a greater level of support to hoarders" and address their physical, emotional and psychological needs.