Task Force

September 23, 2011 Updated Sep 23, 2011 at 6:42 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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September 23, 2011 Updated Sep 23, 2011 at 6:42 PM EDT

(Buffalo, N.Y.) Hoarding has become a much-talked about issue thanks to recent news stories and a popular TV show.

Often times, hoarders live in situations so filthy and dangerous that their lives are in jeopardy.

Senior citizens are susceptible to hoarding because they no longer have the ability physically, or financially, to care for themselves properly.

That's why Erie County has created a Hoarding Task Force.

The goal is to have a unified plan in place to deal with hoarding situations.

According to Miriam Callahan, Caregiver Resource Center Project Coordinator for the Department of Senior Services, some hoarding situations need a mental health focus - others a code enforcement approach.

"We don't want them to leave their home but we want them to be safe," says Miriam Callahan.

The task force is made up of fifteen local agencies, including Crisis Services, the SPCA, and Kaleida Health.

Often times people in hoarding situations are too embarrassed to call for help and that makes them vulnerable to con-artists, says Art Mason from the National Adult Protective Services Association.

"All it takes is one individual to befriend them and gain their trust. As with many victims, they may in fact financially exploit them, taking advantage of them, then leaving them in their squalor to die . . . knowing that they will never report it to police," adds Mason.

For those looking for help with a hoarding problem, they can call Erie County Senior Services at 858-8526.