During the past decade, many community task forces have formed to address hoarding problems that come to public attention. Such task forces provide a societal-level intervention to assist people with the most severe cases of hoarding, who do not voluntarily seek or want help for their hoarding behaviour. This qualitative study of five U.S. hoarding task forces included sites selected for their diversity of purpose, approaches to hoarding intervention and community geography, composition and resources. Data were collected during the period of September 2007-March 2008. The case study methodology used multiple forms of data, including semi-structured interviews, analysis of documents, small group interviews and investigator observation. This study captured the perspectives of public and private sector service providers such as mental health, housing, social service, public health agencies and community enforcement organisations (fire, police, legal, animal control) to examine how task forces organise and operate and the emerging practice and policy changes. Study findings suggest that structural factors (e.g. leadership, purpose, funding and membership) impact hoarding task force viability, that participation on a task force influences practice and policy decisions about hoarding, and that social work can expand its role in task force leadership. Task forces may be a mechanism for improving community policies about hoarding and mechanisms for addressing other social problems across multiple sectors.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.