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South Shore Clutter Reduction Collaborative

The towns of Scituate and Hingham partnered as the South Shore Clutter Reduction Collaborative to address hoarding disorder (HD), associated clutter, and related stigma. In 2018, a two year grant was awarded by CHNA 20 (Blue Hills Community Health Network Alliance) to the Collaborative to launch a multi-faceted project.


In addition to support from CHNA, the town of Scituate received multi-year grant funding from MassHousing to support community-based initiatives to assist those experiencing a hoarding problem.

In 2019-2022, the Town of Scituate (Scituate Hoarding Response Team) was awarded Title IIIB federal grant funding by South Shore Elder Services to serve elders in South Shore communities impacted by hoarding.

To read about each initiative, click below:

South Shore Elder Services (2019 - 2022)

Mass Housing (2015 - 2023)

CHNA 20 (2018 - 2020)

South Shore Elder Services

The Scituate Hoarding Project, an initiative shaped by an interdisciplinary partnership program model of municipal officials and professionals, was organized to serve elders with hoarding issues. Coordinated through the Scituate Department of Public Health, this project included clinician-led groups that served persons impacted by hoarding and clutter. In FY2020, two groups were launched (both online due to COVID-19 in-person meeting restrictions) to serve persons who directly experience symptoms of hoarding disorder. A third group was introduced to serve community members including caretakers or family members of someone who hoards, university students training in social sciences, and municipal or clinical professionals who are seeking a broader understanding of hoarding. In FY2021 and FY2022, additional groups for hoarding treatment were offered and promoted through South Shore Clutter Reduction Collaborative.

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Programs and activities facilitated by MassHousing awards include:

  • Group CBT for Hoarding Disorder: a 20-week group conducted in collaboration with The Brookline Center.

  • Buried in Treasures support groups serving more than 60 South Shore residents.

  • Annual community outreach forums to address issues of hoarding.

  • In-home visits to group participants to track progress and support goal setting and clutter reduction follow-through.

  • Installation of smoke detectors in partnership with the Scituate Fire Department to serve residents experiencing hoarding-related housing concerns.

  • Creation of a hoarding resource list and library of reference books hosted at the Scituate Senior Center and Public Library.

  • CBT treatment groups to assist those challenged by clutter and interested in reducing hoarding..

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Community Health Network Alliances (CHNA) was established by the State of Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in 1992 as coalitions of public, non-profit, and private sector organizations working together to build healthier communities. Today, there are 27 CHNAs that include 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. One of these CHNAs -The Blue Hills Community Health Alliance (CHNA 20), based in Quincy - is a partnership of 13 South Shore communities. These include: Braintree, Canton, Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, Milton, Norwell, Norwood, Quincy, Randolph, Scituate, Sharon, and Weymouth. Each year, CHNA 20 awards grants to support projects that lead to replicable outcomes in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, chronic disease & wellness, and access to care & services. Click to learn more about CHNA 20.

Creating Sustainable Hoarding Support Groups and Services for the South Shore

The Scituate Board of Health and Hingham Health Department received a CHNA 20 Behavioral Health Grant to address hoarding, a problem that is estimated to occur in 2% - 6% of the population (e.g., Bulli et al., 2013, Iervolino et al., 2009, Samuels et al., 2008). Among the South Shore and CHNA 20 communities, an estimated 10,000-27,000 individuals across all racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines are living with HD. Thousands more family, friends, and neighbors are impacted.

What is Hoarding Disorder (HD)?

Hoarding involves the accumulation of, and failure to discard, a large volume of possessions (Frost & Hartl, 1996). Hoarding disorder (HD) is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; APA, 2013). It results in impaired functioning of the individual and an inability to use living spaces for their intended purpose. Difficulty discarding, distress driven by lost items, and acquisition and decision-making challenges are central to HD. Stigma, perpetuated by sensationalized media (e.g., reality television) and few providers trained in evidence-based HD treatment present barriers to intervention, treatment, and prevention.

Why is this a community issue?

HD is often realized in a community by local municipalities, including health, fire, and police departments. Increased likelihood of fire (items stored too close to sources or heat or use of space heaters and extension cords), avalanche of piled items, diminished structural integrity of a dwelling due to weight of stored items, rodent infestation, and poor maintenance of a living space are risks that impact residents of the home, neighbors, family, and first responders.

What are the goals of this project?

This 18-month project included goals set to:

  • Reduce stigma and misinformation associated with HD. 

  • Expand evidence-based, accessible models of treatment for HD to CHNA 20/South Shore communities.

What activities and events met these goals through CHNA funding?

  1. Public education event: To address stigma and misinformation about HD a presentation was held to clarify misconceptions and to share evidence-based resources to help with HD. Based upon past programs of this type - presented by the Scituate Hoarding Response team - more than 250 residents were expected to participate by attending the event and watching the broadcast. The event, in fact, yielded the attendance of nearly 50 residents and more than 200 views of the recorded event.

  2. Buried in Treasures Peer Support Group Leader Training: Peer-led support groups are an effective way, based upon research outcomes, to assist those with a hoarding or clutter problem. Given the shortage of clinicians who are available to provide support, the peer model is a helpful approach to support those working to reduce clutter. Following the book Buried in Treasures (authored by hoarding experts and based upon research demonstrating effectiveness) along with a facilitator manual, nearly 20 peer leaders were trained as certified group leaders with the expectation of expanding the availability of groups across areas of CHNA 20/South Shore. Lee Shuer and Bec Belofsky Shuer of Mutual Support Consulting facilitated the 3-day training.

  3. Online Group Treatment for Hoarding Disorder: Two clinician-led, 20-week online treatment groups for HD utilizing a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) approach was offered to individuals who exhibit symptoms of HD. Suzanne Otte, a certified social worker, with a decade of experience facilitating clutter reduction and hoarding treatment groups, led group sessions. Working in partnership with Boston University School of Social Work and the co-author of Group Treatment for Hoarding Disorder, Dr. Jordana Muroff, group participants received evidence-based therapy in a group setting via weekly online meetings. Based upon past group CBT research conducted by Dr. Muroff, hoarding behavior was reduced by up to 23%. The group included telephone assessments and in-home clinician visits, using standardized measures to understand the hoarding-related behavioral needs of each group member. 

How can I sign up to receive South Shore Clutter Reduction Collaborative updates? 

A periodic e-newsletter will be sent to provide details about the upcoming events, treatment groups, peer leader training, and other hoarding-related resources that are available either through South Shore Clutter Reduction Collaborative or other organizations. Click here to sign up to receive our e-newsletter.

Mass Housing Grant
South Shore Elder Services
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