SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) – Her three-room unit on the ground floor of Block 100 Commonwealth Crescent is overflowing with junk.
The 60-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Zhu, hoards everything from newspapers and aluminium cans to discarded clothes and appliances.
This has worried other residents in the block because the junk is a fire hazard.
But they are afraid to confront the woman, who scolds anybody who tries to help her.
The New Paper found her sleeping at a nearby coffee shop on Tuesday (Oct 1).
When told that residents of the block had expressed concern over the items being a fire hazard, Ms Zhu said she wanted to be left alone.
“It’s not a fire hazard and I don’t have a problem,” she said. “It’s my own privacy and this is not hoarding.”
Ms Jessie Nadaraja, 70, a retiree who lives in the block, said Ms Zhu gets very upset whenever anyone talks to her about the items in her home.
“I feel sorry for her, but I dare not open my mouth,” said Ms Nadaraja.
“Her brother died last year and she has been picking up trash and dumping it inside and outside the unit, posing a fire hazard to everyone else.”
Ms Nadaraja added that Ms Zhu moved into the estate about three years ago.
“There’s no way anyone can enter the unit, and she can often be found sleeping at common areas like pavilions and the nearby market,” she said.
TOWN COUNCIL HELPING
When contacted yesterday, a spokesman for Tanjong Pagar Town Council said it was aware of Ms Zhu’s situation, and is working with the Housing Board and Agency for Integrated Care to help her.
Last Saturday, a 68-year-old man was found dead in a flat filled with junk in Bedok. Police and paramedics had to work their way through piles of junk for several hours to get to his body.
When told of the case, Ms Zhu claimed she had cleared out a lot of things in the past week following pressure from residents.
She said: “I already cleared the things outside the flat and it’s no one’s business what I have inside.
“I just need time to go through the rest of my things. People can’t expect me to do everything overnight.”
Other residents said they were not angry with Ms Zhu, but were concerned for her safety as well as their own.
When showed pictures of the flat yesterday, psychiatrist Brian Yeo said that dealing with such extreme cases of hoarding is difficult.
He said: “Hoarding has not yet been classified as a mental disorder, but is a symptom. There are many reasons why people end up hoarding, and it is a tough issue to tackle.”
He added that most hoarders will deny having a problem, and most do not seek treatment themselves.
“When they see a counsellor or psychiatrist, it is because they were forced to by the authorities or their family members,” he said.
“They get very angry when you try talking to them, and getting them to take any action is difficult.”