Houston leaders discuss a proposed anti-hoarding ordinance relating to hoarding and related behavior. The vote was delayed, but Mayor Annise Parker says it's a problem that is not unique to Houston.
"This is an issue that had been popping up over and over again, and we have worked with mental health professionals. We've worked with police through the Department of Neighborhoods to informally resolve some of situations. But it became clear that having some tools to allow us, through legitimate public health and public safety avenues, to intervene was beneficial."
On the surface, a hoarder in close proximity to neighbors in a townhome or condominium provides a fire hazard.
Parker says they're taking a first-step ordinance that only applies to people sharing a building.
"The goal is not to write someone a bunch of tickets for being a hoarder, because that's not going to solve the problem. The goal is to provide a mechanism for public safety professionals and/or mental health professionals to make an intervention. And we believe we have struck an ordinance that allows us to do that."
Parker, who is a landlord with other investors, says she's had to deal with hoarding problems. It's an issue of mental illness, but also an opportunity to protect the public safety and intervene to improve people's lives.
"We think this is good first step ordinance. I expect it to be evaluated timely perhaps in a year, to see how often it's been used and what the fall-out has been, and then we'll decide if we need to tweak it an move forward."
There was some sentiment to making a more comprehensive ordinance, but Mayor Parker and council decided it was a good first step.