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Hoarders may be living within any neighborhood

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Updated: 10/17/2012 7:12 pm
Since a Summerlin man was taken into custody for what is considered one of the worst local hoarding cases ever, some have been asking just how common is the problem? When does having a lot of stuff cross the line into creating a public health hazard? News 3's Sandra Gonzalez takes a look at that question.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- A Summerlin case has put extreme hoarding in the spotlight as one of Las Vegas’s worst cases. But how common has hoarding become? We see more of it on reality TV shows, and with this case creating a Las Vegas Task Force, could we have more hoarders in our community or in our family.

The Summerlin home of Kenneth Epstein has been fumigated, and much attention is being paid to it as items are being brought out, and tossed out. In the meantime, with family support he has been sent into the court system for help with this complicated problem.

While this case may be extreme and complicated, there may be less severe cases of hoarding going on around us they are harder to detect.

“If somebody wants to hoard things in their household and it’s not causing a problem in the neighborhood, there is really not much we can do about it,” said Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony who represents the neighborhood where Epstein house is.

Las Vegas city officials say it's really hard to gauge just how common hoarding is. By the time it gets to them, it's considered a public nuisance. That means the problem has already made it to the outside.

“If it reaches a point where it's causing problems in the neighborhood, and it's causing animals to die, infestation in the neighborhood, it's causing a smell, it's causing garbage to come out of the household into the neighborhood, that's when we need to get involved,” Anthony said.

The Epstein case is not the only high profile case in the Las Vegas area, a Henderson woman was found dead two years ago buried beneath her own clutter after missing for four months.

Dr. Shawn Gerstenberger, a UNLV professor who is also part of Healthy Homes, a home remediation program says he’s seen a few hoarding case in the past five years.

Health problems can arise when critters can gather around heaps of stuff.

“They create places for pests to live like rats or mice or cockroaches or cats or other domestic animals, that kind of compound the problem,” Gerstenberger said.

These are the obvious signs, of a problem that can be hidden behind doors, bricks and mortar. And local government doesn’t have hard numbers of those among us who may be extreme examples waiting to happen.

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