Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cape hoarders dig out from under an obsession


It wasn't flames or smoke that trapped Dean Melanson of the Hyannis Fire Department in a local basement, but piles and piles of clutter.

Responding to a routine call about an oil burner malfunction, the deputy fire chief found himself navigating a narrow path walled with boxes.

"The basement was filled from the floor to the ceiling," he recalled. His presence upset the precarious balance of containers filled with clothing and auto parts, which toppled over onto him.

"There was no way I could get out from underneath it," Melanson said. Fellow firefighters had to help free him.

As unpleasant as his experience was, Melanson's entrapment was brief.

People who suffer from tendencies to collect and hoard things often face a life sentence of discomfort, shame and even possible danger, mental health and housing experts say.

Hoarding, the subject of several reality TV shows, is the focus of a task force being formed to help Mid-Cape residents free themselves from the disorder.

During Wednesday's meeting, task force organizers Maria Chesky of the Barnstable Housing Authority and Geri Moore of the nonprofit Housing Assistance Corp. hope to draw together people from police, fire, disaster relief, elder care and housing agencies to deal with a baffling problem that seems to be growing worse..." More

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