Hoarding problems in SD&G

In this Friday, May 3, 2016 picture from South Dundas Planner Don Lewis' presentation at the SD&G Summit, a hoarder collects 21 gas cans and windows on his property. Lewis explained how municipalities deal with hoarding. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

ALEXANDRIA – Municipal leaders have been given some graphic evidence of the problems of hoarding in SD&G.

South Dundas Planner Don Lewis presented a picture and video presentation to the SD&G Summit Friday in Alexandria and explained how the municipality is currently dealing with this challenge.

“It’s present in all cultures, income and education levels,” Lewis said.

Hoarding is collection of things, but unlike a collection, there is no method of organization.

Lewis showed a picture of a home in the northern part of South Dundas where 21 gas cans were sitting on the property and a number of windows that were not even the size for the house.

In another extreme case, hoarding took a newly built house to a state where it had to be demolished within three years.

“Mostly (of these cases are) isolated individuals, ashamed and embarrassed,” Lewis explained.

The planner added that the problem is now becoming generational. “We are now involved with the children from them (the previous generation).”

To deal with the problems, Lewis said they first do an assessment of risk for access to the property and then use services like the Community Mental Health Services in Cornwall.

Lewis said they have good luck with mortgage companies.

“We contacted the mortgage company. That issue was cleared up within three-and-a-half weeks,” Lewis said. He said there was wording in the mortgage that the property has to be compliant with municipal law. “They were going to call the mortgage,” Lewis said.

He said the property owners initially told them “we’re two steps ahead of you clowns” but three-and-a-half weeks later “they came in begging” for help.

South Stormont Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart said municipalities should learn more about mental health issues, largely tied to hoarding.

Cleanup of these sites cost thousands of dollars and in most cases the cost is added to the tax bill.