|Published:||Aug 30, 2012 5:07 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Aug 30, 2012 6:46 PM EDT|
LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County is proving to be a state-wide leader in attacking the problem of hoarding. It has a task force that Thursday held a seminar for government and private agency workers. They learned about a very difficult problem.
"This is an ingrained behavior, sort of like heroin addiction or alcoholism," said Mike Titmuss, chief of code enforcement for the city of Fort Myers. "We have some hoarding cases that go on for years. Sometimes the people will even move out of one house on a block, and move all their stuff to another house down the street. It's frustrating."
Hoarding is defined as keeping things and/or animals in a house, to the point that the resident cannot live normally. Often, a secret or deep trauma drives a person into the disorder. They refuse to throw away anything, and often attach value to things like plastic cups. Some also hoard animals, for fear the dogs and cats will not have a home otherwise.
"You know something is wrong, but you don't know what to do about it," said Kathleen Vereen, a recovering hoarder. She says the deaths of her father and two husbands drove her into a deep mental depression. Her house in Ft. Myers was filled with items that should have been thrown out. She had to sleep on one-half of the couch, and could stand on trash in the living room and touch the ceiling.
"I was overwhelmed. I could not open the blinds or let anyone inside, for fear they would see the mess everywhere," Vereen told WINK News.
Finally she got help from anti-depressant medication and from mental health professionals.
"I feel great now. My house was gutted and re-modeled, and I have routines now. I get up, make my bed, and after work I make dinner, do the dishes, and throw out the trash," she said.
The task force on hoarding estimates that at least 12,000 people in Lee County are hoarders.
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