My friend and colleague Sandra Pankhurst recently released her book “The Trauma Cleaner”. Crime scenes, death scenes, squalid and hoarded homes provide the backdrop for the story of Sandra’s amazing and difficult transition from abused little boy to successful business woman.
Whenever I mention the book, I get two questions: What is a trauma cleaner? And, why, as a hoarding specialist, would you work so closely with one?
What is a trauma cleaner?
In the simplest terms, trauma cleaners have the equipment and expertise to remediate the sorts of hazards that are beyond what you would find in a normal cleaning situation – blood, bodily fluids, human and animal excrement, dangerous mould and houses so cluttered or squalid that it would be unsafe for anyone without the appropriate protective equipment to enter.
In extreme cases, hoarded homes can present serious health and safety risks to the occupants and the people trying to help them. Blocked exits, increased fire load, deterioration of the structure of the home are common. Mould, bacteria and infestations can cause or exacerbate health conditions. A trauma cleaner can improve the safety of a home for the occupants as well as the care and service providers entering the home.
What is a trauma cleaner’s role?
So, does this mean a trauma cleaner is the best person to resolve a hoarding situation? No, trauma cleaners play a valuable role in removing clutter and remediating hazards. But, clutter is only a symptom of a more complex problem and we know that clearing the clutter does not fix that problem. In fact, a heavy-handed approach, like the rapid clean out that is popular on TV, can exacerbate a hoarding situation. A good trauma cleaner understands that while the hoarded home might be their worksite, it belongs to a person, and that person’s well being is the highest priority.
The truth is that hoarding is not a problem fixed quickly or in isolation and the services provided by a trauma cleaner are one valuable piece of the puzzle. Sandra gets this and that is why we have been able to collaborate so effectively for so long. We are both actively involved in The Stonnington Hoarding Protocol and regularly work in conjunction with other key players including outreach workers and mental health professionals.
Review of The Trauma Cleaner
Reading “The Trauma Cleaner” was like being on a job with Sandra. It captured her unique ability to meet people where they are at, and carry out her important work with compassion, professionalism and her trademark good humour. It is not only entertaining reading, it provides a perceptive insight into the world of hoarding and the role of the trauma cleaner.
Wendy Hanes, Skeletons in the Closet & Hoarding Home Solutions
To hear about what a trauma cleaner does in Sandra’s own words, watch her Nova 100 radio interview with Chrissy, Sam & Browny here.