Social Enterprise gives serial hoarders a Clean Start

Social Enterprise gives serial hoarders a Clean Start

EVERYONE loathes the prospect of cleaning.  But while most of us will simply pull on some rubber gloves and an apron the team at social enterprise, Clean Start, need full body protection to tackle some of the UK’s toughest cleaning jobs. During Hoarding Awareness Week (May 20-24) they want to make more people understand it is an illness and how they can spot the signs.

“SOME of the homes we are asked to de-clutter we can hardly get into,” explains Clean Start manager, Amanda Lister as she waits for her team to return from another mammoth de-hoarding job.

“Many of our clients suffer mental health issues which leave them feeling out of control.  Hoarding is their way of exerting some control over their lives and it becomes an addiction to keep everything.

"For the last decade the social enterprise has been the go-to cleaning and decorating business in West Yorkshire for the jobs that other commercial cleaners refuse.”

Part of Turning Lives Around, the Leeds based charity which prevents homelessness, Clean Start was set up as a social enterprise to provide work for TLA clients and has developed its offer to include deep cleaning and painting and decorating.

“Clean Start is called in when everything else has failed and tenants are a health and safety risk to themselves and their neighbours and / or face losing their homes.

“We are usually alerted by carers who cannot get into a home or if they realise that the volume of clutter is a fire or health hazard.  Some people will use every space including the bath and fridge to store things and we have even found bottles of urine in one man’s fridge that had been turned off.

“Others are less extreme and simply keep items of sentimental value but over years they build up and combined with not cleaning can be a threat to health and safety,” explained Amanda. 

“We start projects by walking through the property, if we can get in that far, and asking tenants what they need to keep or want to keep.  This might be personal things such as clothes or photos of loved ones. 

“The team has to be very sensitive and not be judgmental or make light of the situation.  At the same time, we have a duty of care to our team.   They often need full body cleaning overalls and face masks to protect against potential bacteria and smells, which can be quite overpowering.

“Most clients have not thrown anything away in years.  After we have de-cluttered, which can involve skips and days of work, we then thoroughly clean and make the homes look like new. 

“If necessary, we can decorate so that people genuinely feel they have a new home and new start.  In some cases, we spend time working with clients to help them maintain a healthy safe home that won’t put them at risk of losing their tenancies.  Sadly, extreme cases can lead to a person being taken into care.”

De-cluttering even the most serious hoarding case isn’t all grime and filth.  The team have found hidden and forgotten treasure.

“One of the reasons we are called back by charities and social services is that we’re honest.  The team frequently find valuable goods such as bags of money, jewellery and other valuables that people have genuinely forgotten or are collecting.  One gentleman had bags of gold coins.  We simply handed them over to him and his carers.

“Sadly, because hoarding is a mental illness it can mean that we are called back for another clean and find the same hidden treasure.”

If you would like more information about how Clean Start can help you or your service users please contact Amanda Lister at 0113 276 0616