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Hoarding Task Forces

Christiana Bratiotis, PhD
Boston University

One way for dealing with hoarding is through agency and community hoarding task forces. The first task force in the United States began in 1989 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Since that time, the number of hoarding task forces has grown greatly as public recognition of the problem and its related social and community impacts have been known. At least 75 communities in the United States have formed task forces to help coordinate care. The mission, goals and functions of the task forces are as different as the communities themselves. The common purpose of all task forces is to provide a directed and managed response to hoarding cases that come to public attention. Whether in large cities or in small towns, task forces organize and provide public education about hoarding, give out service agency information, offer trainings and give support to families.

Task forces typically form from multiple agencies working together. Some smaller communities have chosen a model of within-agency task forces. In some communities, the town government has prioritized hoarding as a problem that requires a coordinated response from its police, fire, public health, social work and inspection departments.

While some task forces work within town, county and city governments, others are formed to respond to hoarding cases that affect a specific population. The most common example is hoarding among older adults. Another example is a task force formed specifically to address cases of animal hoarding.

How task forces are formed, organized, and maintained varies greatly. Some hoarding task forces form for a specific purpose, such as hosting a hoarding conference or providing support groups for hoarders and their families. Others develop to achieve set goals and commit to a specific timeline for meeting those goals. Still other task forces are formed because they have received funds for a specified period of time; these task forces often disband when funding is ends. Although most task forces do not have special funding or grants that support them, many are able to continue because the participating agencies provide various in-kind contributions. These resources include staff time devoted to task force projects, as well as donation of goods and services like meeting space and creation and copies of printed materials (meeting minutes, handouts, brochures). Task force agencies also donate services such as dumpsters and clean outs for people with compulsive hoarding who are working with the task force team.

International OCD Foundation Hoarding Center