This blog was the first stage in the development of a multimedia master’s project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. We launched the main site, hoardhouse.com, on March 23, 2009.

The creators of hoardhouse are Karn Dhingra, Jacquelyn Kasuya, and Ben Piven.

All three of the authors are very curious about the issue of hoarding and how it impacts upon various facets of life in New York City.

This project explores the hoarders, psychologists, social workers, and cleanup specialists for whom hoarding is a defining phenomenon.

We attempt to answer a range of questions about hoarding during the course of this undertaking:

  • How does hoarding affect public health and hygiene? Building and fire safety? The social and psychological dimensions of shame, stigma, and anxiety?
  • Can we define a cost per sq. ft. of hoarding? Is the economic cost of hoarding ignored until a landlord brings legal action or until there is a fire code issue? Are most hoarders on the verge of eviction. How do hoarder advocacy groups deal with real estate companies?
  • Why are city authorities reluctant to increase funding for seniors, the fastest-growing homeless group?
  • Does New York City have an unusually high rate of hoarding? Is hoarding more common in the United States than in other countries?
  • Why did the 2003-2004 NYC Hoarding Task Force become defunct?
  • Is the problem growing as fast as the population is aging?

  • Do insurance companies ever cover hoarder clean-up bills or must city agencies pick up the tab if the hoarder’s family cannot pay?

  • Is long-term mental health care more expensive than hoarding scene clean-up?

  • Is the optimal public policy solution the simultaneous enforcement of strict public health/safety codes and active engagement by social workers/public health nurses who stave off eviction while providing mental health treatment?
  • Does the ‘freak factor’ in hoarding generate curiosity about the often bizarre behavior? Do non-hoarders fear that they might be engaging in some type of hoarding?