Hoarding, poor sanitation, and excessive clutter are potential barriers to the success of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program in affordable housing. These conditions create harborages and food sources for pests, not to mention the fire and tripping hazards, blocked egress, structural problems and possible evictions. Pest infestations are rarely confined to just one apartment in multifamily housing. An infestation in one unit can quickly become a building-wide issue. With help of researchers from Boston University and the University of Nebraska and funding from the Northeastern IPM Center, John Kane at the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) set out to address the association of pest infestations and levels of clutter with an intervention program aimed at helping residents.
First, they looked at the prevalence of hoarding among their resident. Residents were identified with hoarding, clutter and unsanitary conditions in their units in four public housing developments (approx. 1600 units - two elderly and disabled and two family housing sites). Staff were trained to use the “clutter image rating scale” (CIR) to identify residents in need of assistance. Living unit inspection forms were changed to include the clutter image rating score to flag units for follow up.
3260 Living Unit inspection forms and all pests reports from these housing sites were collected from April 2011 to March 2013 and compiled. It was determined that 4.8% of residents living at BHA sites had hoarding, excessive clutter or unsanitary condition in their homes, and this was associated with an increase in pest reports (5.03 more pest visits per year than all other units) (see Figure 1.).
The response plan included an intervention based on the work of Christina Bratiotis, PhD (University of Nebraska) and Jordana Muroff, PhD (Boston University). This intervention strategy includes setting goals, motivation enhancement, harm reduction and safety planning, organizing, problem solving, sorting and decision making and providing additional resources and referrals.
All residents who received the intervention in the pilot project were able to reduce their CIR score during follow-up inspections. Preliminary results show the intervention program successfully reduced the level of hoarding and clutter among residents but further examination of the effectiveness of this case management model on a wider scale is needed. Next steps include implementing this intervention program by training staff and enhancing the living unit inspection form at all housing sites within the housing authority.
In an effort to share these results and methods beyond the BHA, the Northeastern IPM Center’s StopPests in Housing program hosted a webinar in August of 2015 to share these results and train a wider audience of affordable housing staff on how to identify and respond to residents with hoarding or clutter management challenges. http://www.stoppests.org/go/hoardingwebinar The Boston Housing Authority has made resources on hoarding available at www.masshousing.com/hoarding.
John Kane, Boston Housing Authority
Christina Bratiotis, PhD, University of Nebraska
Jordana Muroff, PhD, Boston University
Residents and Managers, Boston Housing Authority
Lori Luce, Boston Housing Authority
Jesse Edsell-Vetter, MBHP
Eugenia Smith and members of the Community Committee for Health Promotion