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Thread: Mental health/sanitation help

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Mental health/sanitation help

    I've got a resident who reportedly suffers from severe depression/bipolar disorder. One of the ways her condition has manifested is that she is unable to throw anything away. I hear about it when the neighbors complain to the city that items are being stored outdoors. I'm pretty sure the stuff we see outside is only the tip of the iceburg. What usually happens is we send a notice of violation she manages to stuff things somewhere inside just long enough for the city to do its compliance inspections and then a month later the complaints start rolling in again.

    The woman clearly needs help, but I have been wholly unsuccessful in getting any county or state agency to help out or intervene. I have heard anecdotally, from someone who was once a caseworker that she has paths cleared to get from room to room but that floor to ceiling of every room is filled with junk. I would like to obtain an administrative search warrant to get into her dwelling to evaluate if she is living in sanitary conditions. The trouble is that I have run into opposition at every turn in pursuing this path - the city attorney says I lack probable cause to get our local judge to grant the warrant. I took photos of the inside of the garage (through a side window) he still said no dice. I contacted the county's adult protective services and tried to enlist their aid and they flat out told me that unless this person had been declared by a cort to be incompetent they could do little.

    I am getting frustrated because the neighbors do not stop complaining and it is creating the appearance that the city isn't doing its job. I am convinced that if we could get the inside of the home cleaned up it would not only have great therapeutic benefit for the lady, but would eliminate the neighbors concerns about outside storage. Any advice would be appreciated.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    We had a guy here with the same problem: compulsive collector of junk/crapola, et cetera ad infinitum. We were finally successful using the county health department (both west nile skeeters and vermin). I thought the old guy would croak when the dumpsters (ultimately we filled four 30-yd dumpsters) were loaded with his "treasures". Instead, he trundled off in his Pinto wagon in search of replacements. We cleaned the property once more before he did indeed pass away at age 91. Good luck, Maister.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    It is a mental illness. I have of ways to treat this obsession. However, I know of no code enforcement officers who have the training, much less the time, to help treat the cause.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Can't you do an unscheduled visit?

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Can't you do an unscheduled visit?
    Well, I can knock on the front door any day I want. It's getting inside that's the problem.
    Not looking to fix the person, just the problem insofar as it affects me.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I mean to find noncompliant stuff on the lawn. It sounded like she cleans up every time she knows a code inspector is going to be around.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    I am getting frustrated because the neighbors do not stop complaining and it is creating the appearance that the city isn't doing its job.
    Relax. Some things are not the Citys job. Just make sure you document the contacts you've made with health agencies, and advise the elected officials appropriately. Hell, if you really want action, take your claims on non-action by the appropriate agencies to the media.

    I am convinced that if we could get the inside of the home cleaned up it would not only have great therapeutic benefit for the lady.
    Thes eillnesses have many manifestations. I would not be so confident in that statement. You could make things worse.

  8. #8

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    Its up to the neighbors. They can sue her, not just cite her.

  9. #9
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    I mean to find noncompliant stuff on the lawn. It sounded like she cleans up every time she knows a code inspector is going to be around.
    Invariably she squirrels away the items that were outdoors and moves them indoors by the compliance dates we give her. It'll stay that way anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 months, but eventually at some point it'll find its way outside again. The thing is the woman by all appearances seems to have no recollection of either me or any previous history. My difficulty is that the tradtional tools of enforcement have not altered her behaviors. I am to the point now where I will only go out there if I receive I complaint - I simply don't have the time to proactively monitor the property anymore - I'm sure you know how it goes. Notices, fines, tickets, seem to have no longstanding deterrent effect - she's not cagy - she's kooky.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus
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    We have a similar situation.
    Qoutes from our newspaper:

    The fire inspector called us (Neighborhood Inspection Services) out, so we went out and took a look at the inside," "It's a fire hazard. It's not fit for human habitation. There is structural damage in the foundation, the roof, interior beams and, of course, the fire damage. And it's literally littered - I walked through the whole house, and I don't think my feet touched the floor.

    Among the items piled on her front porch is a casket. And surrounding an old Buick in the garage is a pile of debris and trash - including what appeared to be a kitchen sink.

    For months, she has lived in a home with no gas, electricity and barely water. She has formed a pathway to get from her front door to her kitchen and other places in her house.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
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    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    As others have said, this is a form of mental illness. As a planner, you can't treat that, although you can deal with the resulting mess. Just hauling everything off is not likely to be good for her. She needs treatment. Have you tried to identify family, who might be able to coax her into getting treatment, or even have her declared incompetent? That is the route I would pursue.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Have you tried to identify family, who might be able to coax her into getting treatment, or even have her declared incompetent? That is the route I would pursue.
    Yeah, we've tried to get her into treatment - no go. It looks like the incompetence route is the road we'll have to take in the end.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  13. #13
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Is this an owner occupied residence or a rental.

    If it is owner occupied maybe there are some building or other code issues you can look into to gain entrance. If it is a rental, it likely needs to be a certified by the city and you may be able to get the inspector in there.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Yeah, we've tried to get her into treatment - no go. It looks like the incompetence route is the road we'll have to take in the end.
    Yet another experience I had at my old job.
    We had a crazy old guy that was hospitalized with no next of kin and had a house that was packed from floor to ceiling in everyroom and out on to the porch.

    The City applied to the courts to have the property declared "unsafe and unsightly"

    The lawyer realized that if the City cleaned the place up, they would technically have to itemize and classify every item and place it all for sale by tender or have a judge review all of the records prior to disposal. The dilapidated building still sits there 3 years later.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    ^-- Sounds like a little friendly, neighborhood arson would save you a lot of trouble.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    ^-- Sounds like a little friendly, neighborhood arson would save you a lot of trouble.
    Reminds me of the scene from the movie Fahrenheit 451 where they burn the woman's house down with her and all her books inside!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    ^-- Sounds like a little friendly, neighborhood arson would save you a lot of trouble.

    In places I know it is a bouncing burning tire at halloween that takes care of situtations like this. (Seriously).

    Since Maister is in Michigan, maybe he can convince some of the Devil's Eve crwod to make a trip to his town.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    It is an indictment of the sad state of our society when a woman like this cannot get treatment and help and her neighbors regard her only in terms of how she affects their property values. Where is the compassion? Have any of them offered to help her with cleaning, with getting her things in order? Maybe this is how she deals with a world that doesn't make sense to her. I agree that carting it all off at once would make her illness worse because it would be a severe disruption in her daily environment.

    One thing that troubles me about much of the zoning codes and ordinances you find is that they are written to preserve the status quo. Its codified conformity and banality. Its washing the American landscape of quirks and uniqueness. It leaves little room for individuality.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  19. #19
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Fire Hazard

    Maybe a visit from the local fire inspector would help?.....
    One Cyburbian is noticeably absent from this discussion......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    One thing that troubles me about much of the zoning codes and ordinances you find is that they are written to preserve the status quo. Its codified conformity and banality. Its washing the American landscape of quirks and uniqueness. It leaves little room for individuality.
    I think this is a cue for some of Dan's great pics of Cheekatowa yard kitsch!

  21. #21
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Have you talked to the higher up's about not closing the case, thence citing her for repeated violations, thence going forth with a formal hearing and show cause so that a judge can see the pic's? From there on, he might be able to issues an administrative search warrant. Take pic's from the inside showing the problem, and lack of safety and sanitation.

    BOOM, out side people come in, and we go for a beer at Walts to celebrate!
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Similar case in AZ. . . .I recently saw a similar case in AZ, in which an elderly woman has the same compulsion. Unfortunately, the report wasn't very through, but basically the trailer was deemed unfit either by the fire marshall, or by some mental health/protective service agency. . .The report stated that without a cleanup she would be taken to a 'faciltiy' so basically alot of neighborhood volunteers got together & cleaned out the place for her so she could remain. . . .

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