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Hoarder house: Grand Forks City Council says their hands are tied

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GRAND FORKS, ND--The Health Department is closing in a local man, as they say his hoarding tendencies are out of control.

Reporter Kenneth Chase spoke Donald Masse to ask if there is anything anyone can do to help him.

Masse wouldn't say much other than he wants the city to leave him alone.

Masse has been going back and forth with the city about his home for years.

Last summer -- contractors with the Department of Health even cleaned out the trash from around his home--and soon, he could be in for a repeat.

"We've been dealing with him for 5 or 6 years now and he doesn't seem to want to change,” said City Council President, Dana Sande.

Photos taken by the Department of Health in July show laundry hampers, a bug zapper and linens line the area around his South 9th Street home.

"It's obvious that Mr. Masse has some mental health issues and for some reason collecting things are very important to him,” said Sande.

Masse has lived in the home since the 1960s.

Volunteers cleaned up the mess twice in the past.

WDAY News reached out to Red River Behavioral Health to learn more about hoarding.

Red River Behavioral Health says hoarding is a disorder -- and getting rid of someone's stuff could be traumatic for them.

"If it's hoarding disorder and anxiety based they could feel like their losing apart of themselves. So it would be very painful. Even physically,” said Social Worker, Casandra Stanley.

But things keep accumulating.

His neighbors told WDAY News last summer they think he needs help.

"If the reason for the collecting of items isn't dealt with, then it's just going to continue. And if anything, it's going to get worse because removing the items without treatment causes additional trauma,” said Stanley.

But city leaders say they've already tried to get Masse into treatment -- even going as far as calling his family to see if they could help him.

Dana Sande City Council President:

"Unfortunately he's either unwilling or unable to go and so because of that there are very few steps that we can take,” said Stanley.

On Monday night, the city council could give Masse a deadline--10 days to remove the stuff around his home.

If it's not gone -- they could send in a clean up crew and give him the bill.

But it's not the only step officials could take.

"The public health department through the county could level a pretty significant fine on him-- which probably would ultimately end up with him losing his home,” said Sande.

"But where does Mr. Masse go? So in once instance it's not fair to the neighbors that live by him, but in another side what do we do with one of our residents that obviously has mental health issues?" asked Sande.

With few other options -- the city says they're stuck removing and repeating this process.

If the city sends a crew to his home -- the city plans to charge Masse for the costs in special assessments.

If you want to help someone struggling with hoarding tendencies, Red River Behavioral Health says Northeast Human Service Center can help people at low or no cost.  (701) 795-3000  151 S 4th St, Grand Forks, ND 58201
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