Hoarding in the Community: A Code Enforcement and Social Service Perspective

Joseph F. McGuire, Lauren Kaercher, Jennifer M. Park, Eric A. Storch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hoarding behaviors endanger individuals and their communities. Although there is a growing literature on clinically referred and elderly hoarders, there is limited information about hoarding behaviors beyond these contexts. This study examines the frequency, characteristics, and outcomes of cases involving hoarding encountered by code enforcement officials and social service staff. Prior to an in-service training, 236 social service staff members completed a 43-item survey about their experiences with cases involving hoarding. Respondents reported encountering between two and three cases per year. Although these hoarding cases were estimated to cost more than $3,700 in cleaning fees, 83% of respondents reported having received no prior training on dealing with hoarding. Survey responses suggested that hoarding situations were difficult to resolve and involved multiple community agencies. Collectively, hoarding behaviors appear to be a problem regularly encountered by social service members, who often serve as the initial point of contact. Along with increased training, future research is needed to develop and evaluate collaborative interagency protocols to manage this multifaceted problem. Empirically informed interagency protocols may facilitate the timely referral of community hoarders to mental health professionals and may lead to improved outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Social Service Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Compulsive hoarding
  • animal hoarding
  • community health
  • interagency management
  • social service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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