Inspectors Try to Help Hoarders Clean Up Their Act

A special task force helps people avoid eviction because of their hoarding.
3:00 | 04/01/14

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Transcript for Inspectors Try to Help Hoarders Clean Up Their Act
Next here tonight, a persistent problem and a new kind of solution. 5 million American adults are compulsive hoarders, living all around you. Homes picture perfect on the outside and a stunning, even dangerous secret inside. ABC's Cecilia Vega now shows us how police are trying a different approach. Reporter: It might look like a nice house from the outside, but hidden inside, a dirty secret happening in neighborhoods all across America. There were some flies in the window. There was a distinct smell coming from the unit. Reporter: Inspector Darren Johnson has an unusual beat. But you're still working on your bedroom. Reporter: He's part of a special hoarding team in Orange county, California. They are often tipped off by neighbors, but instead of eviction, Johnson's team has a new tactic -- compassion. Teaching hoarders how to pull themselves out of their mess and offering help. It's working for the retired psychiatrist who lives here. I see a lot of bugs on your table here. Those are gnats. Reporter: The doctor doesn't consider himself a hoarder. He says his mess stems from depression triggered by a break-up. This happens when I am alone. Reporter: How long would you say this stuff has been piling up like this? Close to a year. Reporter: The health hazards and potential for fires are dangerous for the residents and their neighbors, too. Firefighters say floor to ceiling debris inside this New York hoarder home prevented them from getting inside to save it. But now, teams like the one in Orange county are springing up around the country to address the huge problem. Hoarding affects an estimated 2% to 5% of the population. Long considered a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, last year, it was classified as a unique psychiatric condition. Hoarding can affect anyone. It crosses all socioeconomic lines. How are you doing with problem? Reporter: Inspector Johnson's next step -- calling in the cleanup crew. So we can just pick up off this stuff? Yeah, yeah. Reporter: They get to work, sorting, hauling, dumping, removing countless loads of trash, enough to fill the back of this truck. And when it's all over -- This is the way it was. Reporter: What does it feel like right now to look at your living room floor clean? Yell -- feels good. Reporter: A sight the doctor has not seen in a very long time. Cecilia Vega, ABC news, los Angeles.

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