Wheeling Home Featured on A&E’s ‘Hoarders’ Show
WHEELING – Crews with a national TV program visited the Friendly City recently to help get a local family back on their feet after years of living in a house full of junk and clutter, which aired earlier this week.
The Wheeling resident, identified only as Sherry, was the subject of an episode of A&E’s “Hoarders,” which premiered Monday evening, to the surprise of many Wheeling residents who knew the family. Their home was full of clutter, which had to be climbed to traverse. Filming for the episode took place in October.
Bob Contraguerro Jr., vice president of Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, spoke Tuesday about the episode. Panhandle had been one of several companies who were contacted by the show’s producers for their assistance in cleaning up the house. Contraguerro said that they’ve dealt with numerous instances of hoarding behavior locally.
“We went in and did the actual cleaning of the walls, bathrooms, tubs, floors, after they’d emptied it out of the garbage,” Contraguerro said. “We said we’d be happy to do it. We’re a community-minded company and we really wanted to be involved and help this family in any way we could.”
Contraguerro said that while Panhandle was happy for the publicity of being asked, he was happier that the underlying mental conditions, which lead to hoarding, were being addressed.
“It’s really great to bring awareness to the issue of hoarding. A lot of people think it’s just someone who wants to save everything, but they don’t realize there are mental capacity issues that have to be dealt with. It’s more than just cleaning their home and throwing the trash away, it’s getting them on the track to live more of a normal life, and we really wanted to be a part of that.
“It’s not the first time we’ve done this. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it happens to people often. A lot of people in the valley and country don’t realize why this goes on, and it happens over and over again. It’s not a one-in-100 case or one-in-1,000. … The more they bring awareness to the issue with the TV show, I think people will understand that it’s just not someone who doesn’t throw trash away.”
After other companies, such as Pittsburgh’s Steri-Clean, helped Sherry remove literally tons of clutter, garbage and years-old debris from the house, Panhandle came to scrub and deep-clean several rooms where dirt had accumulated over years of disuse.
“We had to go in there and clean it top to bottom, the sinks, commodes, tubs, all of that had to be cleaned, down to the floorboards where that stuff just builds up,” Contraguerro said. “That’s really what’s left to be cleaned up after you get out all the garbage.”
In the show, Sherry said the house’s kitchen has never been functional, while a bathroom had been usable for a while before plumbing problems shut a toilet down. Contraguerro said the toilet remained in use, with the family manually flushing it with buckets of water after use. He added that the plumbing was not able to be repaired due to obstructions in the basement.
The program ends with the house having several major appliances replaced, from a refrigerator to a hot water heater, plus a gift card to Jebbia’s Market. A toilet for one bathroom was purchased, but the room itself was too heavily blighted to be done by the cleanup crews.
At the end of the program, psychologist David Tolin said that while the companies helped get Sherry and her son Matt back on their feet — and their feet back on the floor, rather than the garbage — aftercare and behavior change is the important aspect to helping hoarders. Sherry told cameras that she was interested in the prospect, but needed someone to help work through it.
Sherry and other residents of the home were not able to be reached for comment at their residence.
Contraguerro stressed that the takeaway from the episode, and the show in general, is a message of compassion.
“We want to get across to people: (hoarding) really is something that people need help with, just like a lot of other mental illnesses that we have throughout our society. This is just one that we were able to help with, to help these people get a clean slate.”