Hoarders in Southwark are now clearing the clutter with the help of a pioneering new support group.
According to Southwark Council, 136 council tenants in the borough have hoarding disorder.
But it is likely that many more have not yet come forward for help.
In what Southwark Council says is the first of its kind in London, people with hoarding disorder can now join weekly drop-in sessions with specialists Caroline Harrison and Dr Victoria Bream from the Maudsley Hospital’s Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma.
According to the NHS, hoarding disorder is classed as ‘where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter.’
People suffering from the condition experience significant distress and their homes often become a major fire risk.
Dr Victoria Bream said: “There are a lot of people out there with hoarding problems and it’s a condition still associated with stigma and shame.
“A group like this where there is no barrier to coming is really great.
“Anyone can attend and you can come once or many times.
“Hoarding is a very difficult problem to crack on your own, so to have support from other people is really powerful.”
The support group meets at Dockhead Fire Station, so fire officers can talk to sufferers and make sure they are comfortable with safety checks in their homes.
Lee, who did not want to give his last name, and who suffers from the illness, has been to the group several times.
He says: “My thing is storing books and papers, I don’t let anyone into my home because of my hoarding, not even my family.
“This group is good for sharing practical solutions, for people looking to move on from their hoarding.
“It’s purposeful and a good balance between challenge and encouragement.”
Councillor Stephanie Cryan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said: “It’s really important that we treat this disorder with the sensitivity and range of appropriate support services it requires. With this kind of easy-to-access service, which combines the expertise of the fire brigade, the council, and mental health specialists, we can keep residents safe and ease the distress they are suffering.
“I am really pleased that people are already coming forward to seek help.”
The group meets from 1.30pm – 3pm every Thursday at Dockhead Fire Station, 8 Wolseley Street, SE1 2BP