Home > People and programs > Healthy Vancouver > Mental health and addiction > Hoarding Action Response Team

Hoarding Action Response Team

A kitchen with applicances blocked by debris

The Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) — a partnership between the City and Vancouver Coastal Health — is an 18-month pilot project providing a coordinated community response to those impacted by hoarding.

Compulsive hoarding is a serious public health hazard that poses significant health and safety risks for individuals, families, and communities.

The team's role is to provide healthy and safe outcomes for people affected by hoarding, and ensure people with hoarding issues receive appropriate health care support quickly.

Need help?

To determine if  hoarding is a concern, use this Clutter Image Rating Guide  (287 KB)

Call 3-1-1 to get help for a family member, friend, or neighbour impacted by compulsive hoarding.

Related initiatives

The Hoarding Action Response Team pilot is created

May 2011 — The Hoarding Action Response Team (HART), a partnership between the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health, was put in place for an 18-month pilot.

Pilot goals are to:

  • Provide healthy and safe outcomes for people affected by hoarding behaviour
  • Coordinate interventions to support people with hoarding tendencies
  • Find resources for residents with compulsive hoarding issues, including garbage removal
  • Develop process that best supports clients to a healthy and safe future 
  • Accurately determine the extent of the hoarding problem in Vancouver 

The pilot makes Vancouver the first city in North America to launch a formalized integrated approach to helping people impacted by hoarding.

Council presentations and reports

Compulsive hoarding is identified as a priority in the City's housing strategy.

Goals of the team

The goals of the Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) are:

  • Improve the physical and mental health of people with compulsive hoarding issues
  • Connect people with hoarding issues with other health resources
  • Prevent evictions
  • Prevent fires
  • Ensure safer living environments
  • Ensure the safety of first responders

How the team works with residents

Possible cases are referred to HART by Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, housing providers and landlords, strata and property management, neighbours and community members, Vancouver Coastal Health, utility providers, non-governmental health agencies, and other City of Vancouver departments.

The team visits the homes of residents who have been identified possibly being impacted by compulsive hoarding, and through relationship building and support:

  • Conducts inspections 
  • Works with residents to prioritize the news steps that need to be taken 
  • Helps residents to organize and de-clutter their homes
  • Refers clients to community resources

Who is on the team

The Hoarding Action Response Team has four frontline workers: two Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) mental health workers, one City fire inspector, and one City property use inspector.

City staff enforce Vancouver bylaws, while VCH mental health workers support and assist residents in organizing and de-cluttering their homes.

The team is supported by UBC research funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Work leading up to this initiative

The hoarding team was put in place for an 18-month pilot in May 2011. At that time, there were approximately 80 cases on file. By the end of February 2013, the team was aware of more than 200 cases.  

What is hoarding

Compulsive hoarding causes significant stress, and includes:

  • The extreme collection of possessions that seem unusable or of limited value to others, such as old newspapers, clothes, and broken or old gadgets
  • Living spaces so cluttered they are no longer functional
  • Outdoor spaces filled with items other than yard furniture or gardening supplies 

Who hoarding affects

Compulsive hoarding affects an estimated 2 to 4 % of the general population. The research is showing that it affects more men than women, with an almost-equal representation between people aged under 54 years, between 56 and 64 years, and those over 65 years. It is often connected to other mental illnesses such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Hoarding threatens the life and safety of those living in and near the affected home. Without intervention, compulsive hoarding can lead to:

  • Fire
  • Eviction and homelessness
  • Isolation
  • Loss of services or care
  • Threat to health
  • Loss of housing stock
  • Increased cost to landlords and building managers

The highest risks to others are seen in high-density housing, such as rental apartments, stratas, co-ops, and non-profit housing.

When to call 3-1-1

You see:

  • Debris, personal items or boxes blocking:
    • Access to parts of the home, windows or doors
    • Stoves and cooking appliances
    • Access to sinks, bathing facilities or toilets
  • The yard filled with items other than gardening supplies or yard furniture
  • The occupant has mobility challenges impacted by the collection of debris inside their home