01/13/2012 09:24 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Hoarder faces eviction from Vancouver home

An elderly Vancouver woman is facing eviction from her social housing apartment on the city’s Downtown Eastside because she's a hoarder.

The organization in charge of the building where Sharon Jelden lives claims she's a danger to other tenants, but those fighting on her behalf say that instead of making her homeless, she should be given help.

Jelden, 73, has been living in the building for nine years and she’s been filling the apartment with a variety of items over that time, but she’s not sure just how many things she’s collected.

“I've never bothered to count. I never think about it,” Jelden told CBC News. “I think about how things complement each other, the colours and the shapes."

Some might see the piles of knick-knacks, clothes and bags of unidentifiable items as trash, but each is a treasure to Jelden.

“I still love these things, and they are important," she said.

The building’s new landlord, the Vancouver Native Housing Society, is evicting Jelden, effective at the end of January.

A document from the society says she has, "seriously jeopardized the health or safety of another occupant or the landlord … caused extraordinary damage to the unit,” and, "put the landlord's property at significant risk."

Second notice

It's the second eviction notice Jelden has been handed since last summer.

Community workers helped her clear out about one-third of the clutter, but the society said that did not resolve the safety issues.

Jelden has launched an appeal with B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch, scheduled to be heard Jan. 30, the day before her eviction is to take effect.

At least one other resident supports her fight.

“You don't kick a person out because you have a mental problem," said neighbour Michel Provost.

A pastor who counsels hoarders agreed that eviction isn't the answer.

"We take draconian action with these people,” said Rev. Don Collett. “It’s not the solution."

A City of Vancouver working group examining the problem estimates that 10 to 20 per cent of residents of the Downtown Eastside have the compulsion to hoard, but after a year of study, the group has yet to figure out a way to avoid evictions.

Jelden said she fears if she loses her fight, no other landlord will take her in.

"I suppose I'd end up on the street, I don't know," she said.