Virginia town calls reality show to help resident with hoarding problem

Instead of dropping all sorts of a fines on a homeowner, a Virginia city decided to get her some help from a reality TV show. / Larry Carney - WAVY
Instead of dropping all sorts of a fines on a homeowner, a Virginia city decided to get her some help from a reality TV show. / Larry Carney - WAVY

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The city of Chesapeake is handling a case of hoarding in an unexpected way: instead of dropping all sorts of fines on the homeowner, the city decided to get her some help from a reality TV show.

City of Chesapeake Zoning Administrator John King didn’t say exactly when his office first found out about the hoarding situation at the home in the Knell’s Ridge neighborhood. He did say that typically police, EMS, or neighbors will report a hoarder if they become aware of it.
In the city code, the issue is more commonly referred to as “cluttering,” according to King.

“Typically, cluttering is a larger problem,” King said. “It’s inside the structure and bleeds over into the exterior of the structure, and then you have the problem, very typically, of insects or bugs, and it can be a real health hazard,” King explained.

It also can be a real safety hazard — if doors or windows are blocked, first responders can’t get in in the event of emergency.

Photos: Virginia hoarder gets reality TV help

King said when the zoning office gets wind of a cluttered home, they issue a code violation. If the homeowner doesn’t start cleaning, the city can take more action.

“We work with them to give them time to start to prepare to move their things out and to clean the structure up to make it safe,” he said.

But sometimes, the homeowner doesn’t cooperate.

“If it gets strung out too long, our next option is issue a summons to go to court, and we have in the past gotten orders to clean the structure out, and that takes some time to get them out, and at the same time, the people aren’t living there. So, it’s very stressful for the people living there,” he said.

That’s why some city employees at a cluttering conference decided to do something a little different. One of the speakers at the conference was a hoarding expert, who is frequently featured on a reality TV show. The city employees approached the expert with the situation in the Knell’s Ridge neighborhood, and asked for help. The show began filming at the house earlier this week.

“We thought about that pretty hard, and the final conclusion was to pick the cases that we thought they might be able to help with,” King said. “They have indicated that not only are they cleaning the structures out at their cost, not the homeowners’ cost, but they’re also getting them counseling for a year, and they’re going to follow-up with them afterwards to make sure that it doesn’t return. So, it’s very beneficial to the citizen and to the city to have them help us out.”

King said there is hope that if this cleaning goes well, the show might come back to help another Chesapeake homeowner in the future.

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