$100,000 plan to help hoarders in Blue Mountains, Penrith and Hawkesbury

With a name synonymous with compassion, Mercy Splitt is overseeing the roll-out of intense hoarding intervention services throughout the Blue Mountains and beyond.

Bondi hoarders: Some hoarding cases become hard to ignore. This hoarder's home was set to be auctioned this week to cover multiple unpaid council fines.

Bondi hoarders: Some hoarding cases become hard to ignore. This hoarder's home was set to be auctioned this week to cover multiple unpaid council fines.

The Federal Department of Health has handed Ms Splitt, the NSW/ACT Catholic Community Services’s Hoarding and Squalor Resource Unit manager, $100,000 which will manage an estimated 24 hoarding cases in the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Penrith region from July 1.

Ms Splitt, who met with representatives from the councils recently to discuss the problem, said the funding would go towards intense intervention including squalor clean-up and pest control.

Collaborative approach: Diane Boyde, community development officer, Penrith Council;  Meagan Ang, community programs co-ordinator, Hawkesbury Council; Mercy Splitt; Prue Hardgrove, aged and disability services development officer, Blue Mountains Council.

Collaborative approach: Diane Boyde, community development officer, Penrith Council; Meagan Ang, community programs co-ordinator, Hawkesbury Council; Mercy Splitt; Prue Hardgrove, aged and disability services development officer, Blue Mountains Council.

“The specialised support service is to work with people affected by hoarding and/squalor intensively with the long-term goal of transitioning over to a mainstream service.

‘A holistic assessment is carried out to identify areas of needs as directed by the client, and supports put in place, like, squalor clean-up, pest control, rubbish removal, one on one assistance with de-cluttering,” she added.

The funding coincides with the fourth National Hoarding and Squalor Conference this week at Rydges World Square in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday [June 29-30] which will feature keynote speakers from the U.S and Canada.

“The key purpose of the conference is continued raising of awareness and most importantly the need for collaboration, not just within the sector, but the community as a whole.

“We have a high calibre of speakers at this year’s conference. People will learn about new and emerging research, what is currently in practice, personal stories from participants with lived experience.”

Ms Splitt has been working with hoarders for the past five years.

“Hoarding is a very secretive act, unless it’s exploding onto the front garden we don’t know what’s behind someone’s front door. It’s a compulsive behaviour, everyone has different reasons why they accumulate, whether it is a learnt behaviour or as a result of trauma,” she said.

Ms Splitt said councils often had minimal powers to enforce the clearing of properties.

“It is for this specific reason that a panel discussion has been convened at this year’s conference with environmental health officers and chief superintendents from NSW Fire and Rescue to discuss ‘when our hands are tied’.”

A 2008 study conducted by the University of Sydney found that at least one in 1000 people in NSW lives in severe domestic squalor with many more cases not reported to authorities.

Anybody looking for support for hoarding and squalor can contact Catholic Community Services at www.catholiccommunityservices.com.au.