City confronts hoarding crisis

City confronts hoarding crisis

Other councils, such as the City of Canning, have had issues with hoarding, including this case in Ferndale, which took the council three months to resolve. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen

Up to 10 cases of people living in squalor are reported to the City of Gosnells each year.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillors were told of the shocking figures with cases taking up large amounts of time and money to resolve.

The meeting agenda said the city was limited in its ability to assist people living with extreme hoarding or in squalid conditions as it does not have the expertise or legislative capacity to deal with their complex needs.

It said the city has had little success in engaging relevant government agencies to provide assistance.

In fact, the Department of Communities (Housing) had reported issues of hoarding and squalor in its properties to the council to deal with.

While the city has refused those requests, it said it highlights the difficulty in engaging with relevant government departments to deal with these issues because the council had little prospect of being able to do so.

Mayor Terressa Lynes said these situations often involved people dealing with mental health issues which were beyond the control of the city’s expertise and resources.

“Severe hoarding and squalor are not just an individual problem they impact the safety and wellbeing of the whole community and the city’s role is to ensure that everyone’s welfare which requires a collaborative approach involving experts and specialised agencies,” she said.

She disagreed with the Department of Health’s suggestion that councils could manage hoarders and squalors.

“These problems need more expertise than a local government can provide,” she said.

“Financial limitations also make it hard for the city to provide comprehensive assistance or improvements.

“Declaring a home unfit for habitation might leave people without a place to live and this creates another situation itself.”

She said the council needed to know which State agency could assist so the council did not have to deal with repeat issues with the same properties and residents.

Councillor Serena Williamson said she was pleased the council staff always acted with care and compassion and the position statement captured that.

“We need to know who is the best person to engage with so we can get the best outcomes for the people in our community who are living in situations of hoarding and squalor,” she said.

“It is pretty clear that as a local government we are not medical providers, we don’t have mental health qualifications, so while we can come in and clean up it’s only fixing the symptoms of the problem.

“It is an ongoing problem and it not only impacts the residents within the house it impacts the neighbours around the house.

“So, we need to definitely elevate this and get some answers on who is the agency who can help our residents not live in these situations.”

The council voted to ask the government to address these peoples’ needs and reduce the impact the condition of their properties has on neighbours.