Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Thoughts about "Hoarders"

Many years ago, one of my posts was about people with compulsive behavior keeping lots of staff inside and around their homes. I'm not a psychologist and I saw this from the point of view of a morphologist, just the occupation of the architectural space.
We had a client, back in 2012, owner of an important house, who used to fill up the rooms with vintage objects, up to the ceiling. She had some illegal constructions and upon comparison with the inspector's pictures, we discovered the owner was relocating stuff and even windows and doors. 
I was surprised, being this my first experience with hoarders. I offered her to buy a nice vintage jar, and she reluctantly sold it to me while warning me "be careful, that's the way you begin to pick up". 
She made the effort to have her legalization plans prepared soon, but she decided not to submit them. After a few meetings with the City inspector, the planner and the City attorney, and due to the inaction on her side, she was arrested and put in jail. Until her brother came back from Europe and got everything done: plans got approved, a contractor was hired to fix the house, which was deeply cleaned, and she was sent to hospital. I don't know what happened then, but I promised the brother to keep the original plans of the house.
Now, trashing old plans I had in a closet, I couldn't get rid of this house blue prints (they are genuinely blue), out of respect for my compromise.

Back in 2018, we had another experience, more serious this time, and the contractor taught me the word: "hoarder". He cleaned part of the house to allow us to take the overall dimensions.
All the time I was wondering how they could live in these conditions where all type of objects, clothes, toys, food etc etc was piled up everywhere.
The lady homeowner had psychological problems, but the husband, after many years of living under the circumstances, seemed to be submissive and in full acceptance of the unhealthy environment.
The son, had a separate clean room and bathroom for himself, like a bubble in a sea of trash.
In my experience, the family accepts the situation and everyone tries to create an independent personal space in the house. This is the best thing they could do.

There's currently a series on Netflix called "Hoarders" which captured my full attention. Not that I like the style of "Big Brother" show, I would have preferred a documentary instead of a sort of short performed novels about the disease.
What is stated is that 19M people in the USA suffer from hoarding disorders. And they are showing some extreme examples.
It seems to be a common factor, which is the lack of interest of the son/daughter in a long period of years. They go away from home, being incapable of dealing with their parent/s disorder and when they come back (they are brought back in the "show") they are repentant they have not seen or realized what was going on inside the house in question. Or with the person in question.

It feels weird to me that a son or daughter does not know how the parent is living this way for so long years, but not all families are the same.
Grievances and tears are abundant and worst of all -in my opinion- is the participation of a licensed psychologist who admonishes the hoarder, in the effort of making him/her realize of his/her bad doings, and what is more, she gives a public diagnostic of the psychological health of the hoarder. 
Which doctor would publicly state the patient's diagnostic openly to the world???? "It's a mental illness!" That is stunning, at least in my mind. And of course I am not criticizing her experience and wish to help, it's just I would have preferred more privacy for the addicted.
Of course, she appears to be a counselor and they are not her patients. And I'm assuming the family is being paid to show all the procedures for the extreme cleaning up in a very short period of time, let's say three days, before Code Enforcement shows up. And this is never enough.

An interesting "legality," is that the cleaners must not take the junk away unless the owner gives them permission. Which is very difficult because what is junk for some, is precious to others. If the hoarder does not allow the removal of objects/ trash, then it could be considered a robbery.

A case that has made me sad, so far, is Patricia's, a lady from Indiana, whose house is deeply full of trash accumulated along 30 years, infected by rats, dogs and human feces, the house is collapsing due to the extra vertical loads and all its component materials are biohazardous given the feces and rotten organics have been absorbed by walls, flooring, foundation. The house is unsafe and worth demolition, but at the end we learn Patricia comes back and her son in law (or so relative) is making some improvements in the house to leave it "somehow" habitable. Because that's the main point, is the hoarder able to live back in the house? Is he /she able to get his/her pets back?
Can he or she be treated or is it a sort of dementia? And it is clear that the whole close family needs therapy.

Coming back to Code Enforcement, they shouldn't let the hoarding reach such a critical point because setting aside the decrease of the property(ies) value, it's absolutely unsafe and contaminating. It seems to me they do not notify the family, but just the homeowner, who cannot understand what is wrong.
In the cases I personally know, not a single social worker was sent to the property. It was all related to the building, to the construction. I see it as a weak point.

All pictures are screen shots from the "Hoarders" show on Netflix.
On episode 5, another doctor is presented: psychiatrist Melva Green, who has shown a lot of support and compassion. And she helps the hoarders (two of them) to get to the root of their problem which -apparently- is a consequence of their poverty in childhood. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails