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Massive cleanup finished at suspected hoarder's beach-area home

It has taken two days but crews have completed the massive cleanup at the Beach-area home of a problematic hoarder.

Several dumpsters have been filled since workers entered the home on Beech Avenue with a court order on Monday.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) trapped nearly 50 cats that were living on the property in the fall.

Neighbours say they’ve been complaining for years about the wretched stench of cat urine and feces, but it was only recently that a judge gave Toronto Fire the green light to enter the home.

Upon inspection, crews deemed the home to be a fire hazard, and a cleanup was ordered.

Toronto Fire Division Chief Jim Stoops said entering the home was a last resort after the resident failed to take action on the heels of several warnings.

“We continued to see that the occupant of this home would not act, we did give the person time to act,” Stoops said.

“Once we see they are not going to act we have to remove the items, and we got a court order for that, to remove the items that can lead to a real fire hazard.”

The cleanup caused several outbursts by the homeowner who attempted to take back items as crews removed them from the home.

She told CityNews she is not a hoarder, but simply hasn’t had time to clean the home after her mother’s passing.

She also says she’s battled serious illness for decades. “No one came to help me,” she said. “I’m bed-ridden.”

Dr. Peggy Richter, director of the Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook, says hoarders not only have difficulty throwing stuff away, they also excessively gather useless items that others would deem garbage.

“The core issue is that they are defined by their stuff and it’s a part of them,” Dr. Richter explained. “Throwing away things when it reminds them of past important events in their life… It’s like losing those memories.”

She said the best treatment for hoarders is a form of psychological therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy, where they are taught organizational and problem solving skills.

“Approximately 90 per cent of people who go through forced cleanup will try to re-accumulate within a year,” Dr. Richter said. “With our other targeted interventions like psychological treatment about 75 per cent or more show meaningful gains.”

The entire street was shut down on Monday morning and crews decked out in Hazmat suits began the arduous process of clearing the home enough to make it safe.

Fire crews wrapped up their final inspection of the home on Tuesday. The owner says she plans to move back in once hydro and water are reconnected.

Officials say the bill for the cleanup will be added to the homeowner’s property taxes.