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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 — provides 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.

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

Compulsive hoarding causes significant stress, and includes:

  • 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 or accessible 
  • Outdoor spaces filled with items other than gardening supplies or yard furniture
  • The occupant has mobility challenges impacted by the collection of debris inside their home

To check if hoarding is a concern, use the Clutter Image Rating Guide PDF file (300 KB).

Members

The Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) is a partnership between the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health. We formed in May 2011.

We have four frontline workers:

  • Two Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) mental health workers who support and assist residents in strategies to organize and declutter their homes.
  • Two City fire inspectors who enforce bylaws

We are supported by UBC research funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We use research data to drive key decisions.

Vancouver was the first city in North America to launch a formalized integrated approach to helping people impacted by hoarding and continues to lead as a city in developing best practices.

Goals

  • Provide healthy and safe outcomes for people affected by hoarding behavior
  • 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

Approach

  1. Triage hoarding inquiries to 3-1-1
  2. Visit the homes of residents who have been identified as possibly being impacted by compulsive hoarding
  3. Conduct inspections and use relationship-building and support to work with impacted residents to:
    • Prioritize next steps
    • Plan how to organize and de-clutter their homes
    • Access community resources

Compulsive hoarding affects an estimated 2 to 4% of the general population. The research shows 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.