The Gap & Other Brisbane Suburbs Tackling Hoarding & Squalor Problems

Photo credit: Footprints in Brisbane

The Gap is one of the suburbs in Brisbane recorded with multiple cases of hoarding and squalor. In the past financial year, the Brisbane City Council has gotten 6,227 complaints, which is 364 more than the complaints received last financial year.

The other eight suburbs with multiple cases are:

  • Brighton
  • Calamvale
  • Coorparoo
  • Fairfield
  • Graceville
  • Tarragindi
  • Tingalpa
  • Windsor

The council tackles this problem through their response program specifically targeted towards hoarding and squalor. The program was established in 2015 and so far has gotten over 19,000 complaints.

 

Compulsive hoarding

– difficulty discarding items of limited value & discarding those items causes them distress
– cluttered living environments restricting a normal life

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Domestic squalor

– high volume of waste, dirt and grime
– presence of pests
– presence of rotting food
– hoarded materials

In Australia, an estimated 2.6% of people are affected by compulsive hoarding whilst a 2016 Census data, up to 30,000 people may be affected by compulsive hoarding within the Brisbane local government area.

Compulsive hoarding and severe domestic squalor are two distinct mental health issues. The council sees cases of hoarding and squalor as the most complex and challenging as there is no quick fix. Resolving issues cooperatively is what the council aims for but they also have an obligation to protect the health and safety of neighbouring residents and the community.

 

The Initiative

This has led the council to develop the Initiative, a two-year pilot project that ran through July 2014 to June 2017 where a Resident Liaison Officer (RLO) worked closely with affected residents and support agencies and helped address complex mental health and other personal issues. The RLO was funded for specialist decluttering and cleaning support. It was a success thus the council extended it by providing funding in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 budgets.

The Initiative provides intensive case management and collaborative support to residents who live with hoarding and squalor conditions as well as those who are affected by them. The council is now recognised as a local government leader in tackling hoarding and squalor and continues to work with the Local Government Association of Queensland to develop best practices for other local governments.

There is also a public health order under the Public Health Act 2005 issued to require the recipient of the order to take action from removing, reducing or controlling the risk to public health from a public health risk. This applies to hoarding and squalor. Failure to comply a fine up to $15,000 must be paid.

According to Cr Matthew Bourke, the council’s lifestyle chairman, the council is doing everything in their power to control hoarding and squalor in Brisbane but the owner of the property must also be responsible in keeping his or her property safe and clean at all times.