The Role of Hoarding Task Forces

One way of addressing hoarding disorder as a community is through agency and community hoarding task forces. The first hoarding task force in the United States began in 1989 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Since then, the number of hoarding task forces has grown greatly as public recognition of the problem and its related social and community impacts have received greater awareness. At least 75 communities in the United States have formed hoarding task forces to help coordinate care.

The mission, goals, and functions of the hoarding task forces are as different as the communities themselves. The common purpose of all hoarding task forces is to provide a directed and managed response to hoarding disorder cases that come to public attention. Whether in large cities or in small towns, hoarding task forces organize and provide public education about hoarding disorder, give out service agency information, offer trainings, and provide support to families.

Forming Hoarding Task Forces

Hoarding task forces typically arise from multiple agencies working together, though smaller communities may choose a model of within-agency task forces. In some communities, the town government has prioritized hoarding disorder as a problem that requires a coordinated response from its police, fire, public health, social work, and inspection departments.  While some hoarding task forces work within governments (town, county, and/or city), others are formed to respond to hoarding disorder cases that affect a specific population. The most common example is hoarding disorder among older adults. Another example is a hoarding 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 conference or providing support groups for those with hoarding disorder and their families. Others develop in order 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 hoarding 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 hoarding task force projects, as well as donation of goods and services (like meeting space, the creation of printed materials, copying, etc.).  Hoarding task force agencies also provide services such as dumpsters and clean outs for people with hoarding disorder who are working with the task force team.