Morgantown is the first city in the state to create a hoarding task force. It brings community, public safety and government officials together to curb the public safety hazard they pose.
"You can have a lot of issues with rodents, with pests," said Tammy Michael, the Morgantown Code Enforcement Officer who will lead the new task force. "You can have it even go into mold, mildew which for a lot of elderly people can be health-threatening."
Police and fire are also involved.
"Fire occurring in structures like that, they're deep-seated, they're hard to put out," said Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravassos. "How are you able to get all this stuff out to put the fire out?"
Even though it's a safety hazard, hoarding is not illegal. The city created the task force as a way to curb what code officers like Michael are seeing more and more.
"We actually had three or four in the last month or two come into play and that's probably a very small amount to what's out there," Michael said.
One of the main goals is to identify hoarder homes, so that emergency services know what they're getting into when they're called out.
"The big thing we worry about is the safety," Caravassos said. "People trying to get out, my firefighters trying to get in to help somebody, and when we run across these situations it's better to be aware of them beforehand than to have to come across them in the middle of the night."
Another goal is to use the task force's resources to get to the root of the hoarding problem.
"This is just not stuff to them, it's important and we can't say throw it away, get rid of it, you have 20 days," Michael said. "It doesn't work that way, it wasn't working."
The city is compiling packets of information available to landlords, tenants, and anyone who is concerned about a family member, friend, or even their own neighbor. A website will also be available with more information.