Monday, October 14, 2019

Remembering the hoarder who came to Warrendale

Reflecting on Detroit - Photo by Garrett Lee Davis/Pixabay
Detroit is a city where every block is filled with memories; filled so thick at times that one doesn’t need to have ever lived or even visited here in order to sense their lingering presence. This now vacant lot on Artesian Street is one of those memories for me.

For several years, the house that was once on this lot only a few hundred feet north of the border between the cities of Dearborn and Detroit was an exceptional eyesore. The gentleman who lived there was both a squatter and a hoarder.

He clearly had mental health issues. The Warrendale Community Organization, the City of Detroit, and others all tried to get him some type of counselling.

Photo by DeeDee86/Pixabay
This individual, who I will call by the obvious pseudonym of Henry T. Hoarder, had no interest in any type of therapy. He simply wanted to be left alone with the trash that he collected.

The fact that his collection of scrap lumber, twisted metal, and odd pieces of plastic attracted rats and other vermin was of no concern to him. The rats, he figured, didn’t bother him or his treasured collection of trash. It seemed obvious to him, therefore, that he shouldn’t bother them.

The fact that he didn’t own this home in Detroit and wasn’t paying any property taxes was of even less concern to Henry still.

Every week that went by, more and more junk was accumulated around this Detroit property. It wasn’t long before one couldn’t even see Henry’s house from the street. All that was there was the mountains of trash that he collected.

Neighbors asked him to at least move everything inside the house that he was squatting in. He replied that he couldn’t do that. He had too much other stuff that he was hoarding that no more could fit inside.

winter detroit
Photo by Ania Klara
As the weeks dragged on, it was collectively decided by the powers that be that they would leave Henry alone for a little while. Winter was fast approaching and the thinking at the time was that, since this home had neither gas nor electricity, the cold would drive Henry from this property faster than the Detroit Police Department could and with less risk of anyone getting hurt in the process.

I still don’t know how Henry did it but he made it through the winter. I know that he didn’t burn any of the trash he was hoarding. This trash was, after all, much too important for him to burn even if the alternative was freezing.

As warm weather returned to Detroit, Henry’s collection continued to get larger and larger. He promised repeatedly that he would do something to contain it but he never did. Instead, Henry’s hoard of trash would soon begin to spill over into the adjacent lots of his neighbors.

The weather continued to get hotter that summer and so did tempers at the southern end of the Warrendale neighborhood. Henry’s hoarding was only getting worse and this expanding raft of refuse was causing ever increasing problems. Neighbors no longer had to worry about the hoarder’s trash being an eyesore next door. It was a problem that had spilled, rats and all, into their own yards.

Henry T. Hoarder was eventually evicted from the house on Artesian Street that he was squatting in. I shudder to think, though, how many truckloads of trash the City of Detroit must have hauled away from that house.

Once Henry and his collection were removed, the house returned to its vacant state - a condition that it would remain in for another year or two as the city of Detroit continued to work its way forward after bankruptcy.

Eventually, the neglect reach a point where it was determined that this once sturdy house had become structurally unsound. It was demolished a couple of weeks ago. All that remains of Henry T. Hoarder’s life in Warrendale is a vacant plot of land and some memories.

detroit land warrendale
The lot where the hoarding house one stood - Photo by Frank Nemecek

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