Monday, July 11, 2011

Tragic Menlo Park hoarding case leads to questions about city enforcement

By Diana Samuels

Spencer Harris' Menlo Park apartment was packed wall to wall. There were stacks upon stacks of files and papers for his business and thousands of carefully annotated newspapers; dozens of dress shirts hung on a clothesline over his bed.

Harris called himself an "accumulator," his friends said, but many would likely call him a hoarder.

"I knew that if (the landlord or authorities) went in, it would be the end for Spencer, because he had been petrified," said his downstairs neighbor and friend Lynn Huidekoper. "He was petrified for a long time of someone seeing the apartment."

Harris' fears were realized in May when police entered his apartment while he was out of town. He received a 24-hour eviction notice and was forced to sort through belongings collected over three decades -- items he called "my identity."

Less than a week later, 74-year-old Harris died by suicide. Now his friends and family are questioning why he was removed from his apartment with such haste and are searching for ways that municipalities can work more successfully with hoarders like Harris.

"There needs to be more awareness by the city police departments and the city government," said Harris' brother, Wes. "If they do come across a hoarder, they need to get a mental health professional involved right away."..." More

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