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Residents hopeful SPIDER program will help hoarders

Fire crews in hazmat suits were at a suspected hoarder's home in Davisville on Nov. 28, 2013. CITYNEWS/Shauna Hunt.

Residents in one GTA neighbourhood say they are hopeful that an upcoming new program that focuses on hoarding will help eliminate the ongoing issue.

In December city council passed the SPIDER program, short for Specialized Interdivisional Enhanced Response, after more than three years of proposed bylaws and residents begging for solutions.

The program is designed to coordinate response to hoarding situations with city officials including fire, mental health and animal services.

Coun. Josh Matlow, who has been an advocate for changing the way the city deals with hoarders, says it’s a problem that affects people in neighbourhoods across the city.

“Soon after I was elected three and a half years ago I became aware that there was certainly one case of hoarding in my community,” said Matlow. “After that I found out that on the same street there was another house with a hoarder as well. This has had a huge impact on the neighbours, their quality of life.”

In November, Toronto Fire officials donned HAZMAT suits and entered the Davisville area home of a suspected hoarder to remove materials that were deemed a fire hazard. Despite the cleanup, boxes remain piled up on the porch.

“It’s frustrating because it’s an ongoing issue. It’s a very short term solution… well, it’s not a solution,” Krista Grayson, who lives near the hoarder’s home on Manor Rd., near Mt. Pleasant Road, told CityNews.

Matlow said residents had been raising concerns over the state of the house for years.

“This has been a problem for, I’m sure, decades. I’ve spoken to residents who have been complaining to anyone who would listen for years and nothing’s ever been done,” he said.

Matlow said the SPIDER program is a good start but without help from the provincial level he worries it will be a temporary solution.

“The city of Toronto is not equipped well enough to handle with these issues because it’s not just to do with the fire department getting into the house or the police being able to get into a house or municipal licensing and standards – they’re issues around mental health,” he explained. “We need reform about how the province deals with mental health case.”

The city hopes to hire staff for the SPIDER program by May and will report back to council with an update on the program in December.