CLEVELAND - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation uncovers shocking video that reveals how "extreme hoarding" is spreading across neighborhoods throughout Ohio.
Experts said they are finding an increased number of extreme hoarding cases that involves individuals who simply cannot control the impulse to collect or save items. That can include everything from books to animals.
In some cases, hoarders are a health risk to themselves and neighbors. Exclusive video obtained by NewsChannel5 shows disturbing conditions inside one Northeast Ohio home.
Sue Cummings is health inspector for the Summit County Health District who recently helped a 62-year-old woman who was living in a home that she describes as one of the "worst cases" she has ever seen. Click here to see photos from the house http://5.wews.com/e2y
"Cat feces everywhere, holes in the floors, cat food just laying out," Cummings said. "Probably ten feet before the front door, the odor starts to assault you."
Incredibly, the woman lived inside for years until she was persuaded to move out. She is currently attempting to clean and repair the home--although it has been condemned as unsafe. The conditions inside the home first surfaced after water meter inspectors tried to enter the home.
Suprisingly, the woman was able to hold a full time job despite conditions inside the home. Dr. Deborah Koricke is a psychologist who said that's not unusual.
"I think the misconception is you think they are going to look like "pig pen" with that cloud around their head of dirt or dust--they don't," Koricke said. "They look OK."
So why do they do it?
Bernie Brooks is a social worker with the Iris Project, who often assists "excessive hoarders" move from dangerous conditions and says everything collected has a certain value to hoarders.
"If they have a thousand McDonald straws," Brooks said. "They need every one of those straws."
Our investigation found only one program in the entire state of Ohio is specfically created to help those suffering from hoarding. It's called the Hoarding Connection in Cuyahoga County and is a cooperative venture that includes health officials.
But without this type of program, "excessive hoarders" can be left to fend for themselves. The International OCD Foundation has a scale that helps people determine when they should seek help for their clutter collection. Click here to view the scale and see where your place ranks http://5.wews.com/DTQ
"I think the downside is you see more and more individuals at risk," said Cuyahoga County health inspector Vince Caraffi.