In the frantic aftermath of a gas explosion last year that leveled three nearby buildings, the firefighters who arrived to evacuate Adam Chrin’s fourth-floor apartment were confronted by an entirely different disaster.
They found him nearly entombed in filth and squalor, amid hoarded, floor-to-ceiling piles of old newspapers, rumpled clothes, books, shopping bags, food scraps, knickknacks and stacks of old records. It was almost like walking through a disaster zone.
“It was like walking through a minefield,” said the 67-year-old Chrin, recalling how the firefighters could barely get inside. It was that moment of fear mixed with shame that prompted him to finally get help for a hoarding problem he had battled for decades.
Chrin is among hundreds of older, mostly poor New Yorkers who have been assisted by a private initiative that seeks to tackle not only the fetid clutter of extreme hoarding, but also the mental, legal and financial woes that are often at the root of the mess.
Experts say an estimated 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population engages in clinically significant hoarding, the obsessive need to accumulate things. Its grim realities of squalor and isolation have become known to many through the popular cable reality series “Hoarders.”
New York’s skyrocketing real estate rates and tiny, easily cluttered apartments make it an appropriate place for the Educational Alliance’s Geriatric Mental Health and Hoarding Initiative, which sends social workers to the worst public nuisance cases, in which the hoarding is so bad that residents are threatened with eviction.
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Remember, if you or someone you know is suffering from hoarding, you can contact us at www.facebook.com/CloudsEndCIC for help.