He once broke open window to get into flat
Man says neighbour's hoarding of newspapers in Clementi flat is fire hazard
He leaves for work every day worried for his wheelchair-bound mother's safety.
This is because he lives next to a flat brimming with newspapers - a potential fire trap.
Mr Derek Ang, who has been living with his 78-year-old mother in their three-room flat in Clementi for more than 30 years, told The New Paper: "My mother has osteoporosis and is wheelchair-bound. If a fire happens, I'm not sure what will happen to her."
The 43-year-old retailer added: "Because (my neighbour's flat has) so many newspapers and they burn easily, the fire will spread very quickly and everyone will be affected."
Mr Ang said his tall and well-built neighbour has been hoarding newspapers ever since he moved in 10 years ago.
When The New Paper visited the flat on Monday, there was no one home.
A neat stack of newspapers sat on the steps leading up to the main door. Bundles of newspapers were also wedged in the space between the grille and the door.
Inside, more towers of yellowed newspapers filled both the living room and the bedroom facing the corridor, leaving little space to move around.
Mr Ang claimed that the hoarding problem was so severe that once, his neighbour had to climb in through the window to enter his own flat. A heavy stack of newspapers had fallen behind the front door, preventing him from opening it.
He had to call his older brother for help to dismantle the window to gain access into the flat.
Mr Ang also complained about the stench coming from the flat.
He said: "There was once, he (the neighbour) opened the door (of his flat) and it was super smelly. I wanted to call the police because I thought someone had died.
"I've even seen cockroaches come out (of his flat) a few times before."
Another neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Goh, shared similar concerns.
The 60-year-old, who works in administration, said: "Nowadays, the weather is very hot so I feel there's a higher chance of a fire happening.
"It's also very unhygienic, I'm scared that it may breed insects."
CLUTTER: Newspapers stacked outside the unit in Clementi, even tucked in between the grille and the door. PHOTOS: JEREMY LONG, SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
Both Mr Ang and Mrs Goh said their neighbour, whom they believe lives alone in the flat, keeps to himself and they rarely see him.
He often comes and goes without anyone noticing.
Mrs Goh said: "He avoids people. We can both be waiting for the lift but if I go in, he won't take the lift."
Mr Ang added: "He plays hide-and-seek. He's always avoiding people."
However, his neighbour's reclusive nature did not stop Mr Ang from confronting him about his hoarding issue.
Mr Ang said: "Last week, I quarrelled with him about the newspapers outside his door, but he told me that it was his own personal problem. I then warned him that if the problem continued, I would call the police."
Mr Ang added that he has brought up the issue to various authorities, like his town council and the Housing Board, several times over the past few years, but not much has been done.
According to him, the authorities would turn up to clear the newspapers outside the flat, but new stacks would reappear after a few weeks.
A spokesman for Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council said it has been alerted to the case. Officers have visited the unit and noted the items placed within the house and along the entrance.
The town council is working with the resident to keep the common corridor clutter-free and will provide any assistance to help clear unwanted items if necessary, the spokesman added.
Hidden emotional issues behind hoarding: Psychologist
Clearing out a hoarder's mess is only the first step to treating the problem.
Even though their items may have been cleared, hoarders may revert to their old ways, said psychologist Daniel Koh from private clinic Insight Minds Centre.
Hoarders also tend to resist help and may fight back because there may be an underlying emotional or traumatic issue to their hoarding.
It is therefore important to understand a hoarder's behaviour and know that he or she needs support and comfort.
Encourage the person to seek professional help because helping a hoarder on your own is not easy.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of hoarders:
- They keep things that are no longer in working condition.
- Even though these things may not be of use any more, they do not want to throw them away.
- The items are kept in large quantities.
OTHER HOARDING CASES
Eunos Crescent (May 2015)
National Environment Agency officers found swarms of cockroaches when they sprayed insecticide in a three-room flat belonging to an elderly couple.
The 66-year-old wife had been compulsively bringing home all kinds of junk over the past two decades.
Her husband told reporters that at night, he had to sleep on the sofa surrounded by mountains of newspapers, bags of leftover food and piles of plastic bottles.
It took 10 people a total of eight hours just to clear the clutter from the living room.
Toa Payoh (February 2015)
More than 10 tonnes of trash was cleared from the flat of a mother and her son. Both were compulsive hoarders. Their clutter even spilled over to a unit two storeys below which belonged to the woman's mother-in-law.
When the authorities tried to clear the flat, the pair created a scene and were arrested.
Toa Payoh (February 2015)
A 71-year-old hoarder accumulated so much junk in his bedroom that he had to sleep in the living room.
The area outside his flat was also littered with bottles, plastic bags and chairs.
Sengkang (October 2014)
It only took a year for a 55-year-old man to fill his storeroom and three bedrooms with junk.
The items were piled up so high that he had to climb over them to get into the kitchen.
It took volunteers 10 hours to clear his four-room flat.