Emergency personnel wore respirators as they shovelled debris out of the entranceway of an Abbotsford home Tuesday morning so they could check on the 75-year-old occupant.
The man was found safe in bed at the rear of the home on Lynden Street, but in conditions that made the residence dangerous to live in, said Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald.
“I think ‘squalor’ is an accurate description,” he said.
Police received a call from a man who does yard work at the home, saying he had not seen the occupant for about a month. Neighbours also said they had not seen the man for a couple or weeks and were concerned, because he usually informs them when he goes away.
When police arrived, the house was locked and nobody came to the door. An officer was able to get in through a window and found the senior at the back of the home.
The man was conscious and talking, but required medical attention. However, he could not easily be removed due to piles of debris scattered throughout the home, including stacks of newspapers and garbage.
Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service and the BC Ambulance Service were called to assist.
The crews wore respirators as they entered the home, due to the strong smell, and carried shovels to move debris out of the way.
The man, who lives alone, was then taken to hospital for evaluation. It is not yet known why he had not left the home or whether he had contacted anyone prior to his removal.
Mental-health and health-department representatives were also on scene.
“We’re going to have to talk to some of our partners to see whether the home is safe to be inhabited at this time,” MacDonald said.
He said police receive “check welfare” calls on a daily basis and this is an “extreme example” of the conditions in which they find people living.
Kimberly Watt-Senner, president of the business Everything Organized, said the man’s living conditions are typical of people who are identified as compulsive hoarders.
She described these individuals as having a “reluctance to get rid of mass amounts” of items, whether this is due to deep emotional attachment or because of physical limitations.
“The things start to accumulate in their home, but nothing leaves,” she said.
Watt-Senner said hoarding is often linked to mental conditions such as chronic depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or psychosis. Loneliness and isolation can also play a part, she said.
Often, the hoarded items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary.
She said people who hoard often become desensitized to their environment and might not notice a horrible stench or recognize how dangerous their clutter has become. They then subject themselves to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.
“It’s more common than you would think,” she said.