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Wellington Guelph Hoarding Network hosts harm reduction workshop Sept. 27

by Kelly Waterhouse

WELLINGTON CTY.

Reality television has brought the issue of hoarding to public attention, with programs like Hoarders.

While it may make for interesting drama, the reality is a serious and often dangerous situation that requires careful support.

On Sept. 27, the  Wellington Guelph Hoarding Network will host a discussion on Harm Reduction: A pragmatic approach to the problem of severe hoarding, led by Mark Odom, a licensed clinical social worker from Orange County, California.

“Mark Odom is an advocate for harm reduction,” said Goldie Barth, Wellington Guelph Hoarding project coordinator.

“His approach is that you have to help people with hoarding by reducing their risk of injury, with health and safety issues, in a way that doesn’t traumatize them.”

Barth explained that while many people assume hoarding requires a massive clean-up, the best method is to breakdown the process.

Family or support care helpers should begin by targeting key risk areas such as stoves, heaters, exits and other danger areas in a residence.

The goal is to return functionality to the home while reducing risk.

“People who hoard need to trust you,” Barth said. “They are often not social and are very isolated.”

She added, “It’s a long process. This approach is that it is really important to be patient.”

The Wellington Guelph Hoarding Network (WGHN), a cross-sector committee of community stakeholders, was established in 2010 as a result of concerns regarding the increase in reported hoarding issues.

After commissioning the report “Hoarding in Wellington Guelph,” which outlines hoarding issues in Wellington Guelph and the need for a collaborative response, this network initiated activities to build community understanding and collaboration in responding to hoarding issues to build an effective response.

In an online survey, community partners and stakeholders outlined the primary safety and health risks they observed  in homes with clutter. The following was reported:

- 84%  clutter could start or spread a fire;

- 84%  garbage unmanaged;

- 82%  clutter presents risk of falls;

- 76% food stored inappropriately;

- 68%   falling clutter could injure occupants; and

- 62% insect and rodent infestations.

According to the group’s findings, in the past year the City of Guelph Fire Department has received approximately 25 phone calls requesting their fire prevention division inspect residences for unsafe situations involving hoarding.

County of Wellington Housing Services statistics estimate at least 2.5% of their tenant population can be identified as having an issue with hoarding.

The report states that due to a lack of manpower to complete inspections and the hidden aspect of hoarding, the estimate is a conservative number.

“We often learn about hoarding when it is a crisis situation,” said Barth. “Once you’ve found it, what will you do?”

The WGHN received a grant from the Ontario Healthy Communities Fund (HCF) for  Project Safety, an initiative that brings community partners together to focus on education to raise awareness of health and safety hazards and reduce risk of injury due to hoarding.

“This is a very complex issue,” Barth said. “It takes a number of people working together.”

Employing a harm reduction goal, Project Safety will involve a range of non-judgemental strategies and approaches aimed at providing and enhancing the knowledge, skills, resources and supports for individuals, their families and communities.

“Harm reduction has proven to be fairly successful in other areas and that’s why we’ve decided to go this route,” said Barth.

“Mark Odom is an expert having implemented this approach in Orange County. His presentation will be the kickoff for Project Safety.”

Barth said the group will look at future workshops with service providers and organizations.

“We hope Project Safety will bring more help to those people who need help with hoarding issues, and their families and support network, and will help reduce the stigma of hoarding.”

Approximately 200 people have registered to hear Odom speak on Sept. 27.

“The community has been very enthusiastic and supportive about this topic,” Barth said. “It’s a very timely topic.”

Odom’s  workshop, Harm Reduction: A pragmatic approach to the problem of severe hoarding, will take place at the Italian Canadian Club, located at 135 Fergusson Street in Guelph, on Sept. 27. The event runs from 8:30am to 3:30pm. Admission is $75.

To register contact Yvonne Bowes of Dunara Homes for Recovery at 519-836-2332 ext. 107 or email: ybowes@dunara.com.

For more information regarding WGHN contact Goldie Barth, project coordinator, at 519-821-8623 or goldierbarth@rogers.com.

Vol 45 Issue 37

September 14, 2012

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Wellington North Guide 2018-2019

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