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The emotional impact of property clearance
Teams clean up properties for councils and new owners, whether it’s a deceased person’s former home, a vandalised derelict building, or a squat in disarray. It can be physically demanding work, but this specialised cleaning also has an often overlooked emotional strain.
Nerio Marques has been working for a year at SafeSite Security Solutions, one of Britain’s leading companies in the specialised clearance of such properties. Every day is different for this highly-skilled cleaning team, explains Nerio:
“Properties which appear unkempt – and therefore vacated – are prime targets for squatters, thieves and vandals. Fortunately, we offer a variety of nationwide site clearance and cleaning services to revive, or maintain, a good aesthetic at residential and commercial premises to deter unwanted visitors.”
Targeted and trained
The team’s property clearance and cleaning services are ideal for preparing sites for new builds and enhancing buildings ahead of viewings from potential buyers. As well as clearance services for garden waste and rubbish left behind by squatters, we also undertake fast and effective graffiti removal.
The teams involved in this work undergo extensive training covering all the clearances and hazards they’re likely to encounter, for instance, diseases. This training prepares them for most situations, but they also rely on experience to help them deal with issues that arise daily.
SafeSite Security Solutions mainly works under contract for local authorities and commercial organisations but occasionally performs some work for private individuals.
“We often work closely with councils,” says Nerio, “perhaps attending a property together as sometimes there are sensitive decisions to be taken or discussions to be conducted. This is especially so when the occupier is still there or is about to be evicted. The council always has the final say on official matters to do with occupiers.”
It can sometimes be a strenuous task, given the debris or items left behind by former residents. But there is a strikingly emotional impact that’s often overlooked in jobs like these, explains Nerio:
“The emotional impact is worse when the property is empty due to a sad event. Perhaps someone has died, and we must clear the property. It’s difficult seeing the personal items – photographs, paperwork and possessions – around the property and thinking about the person and their life.
“There’s often a sense of loneliness – the fact that they’ve maybe died alone and don’t have a support network of family and friends around them. You can’t help thinking about the sadness and the fact that nobody should die alone.
Nerio remembers attending one job where a man had passed away, and the property was left exactly how it was when he died. There was a half-eaten takeaway on the table and, of course, many personal possessions. The teams at SafeSite Security Solutions gain an unforgettable impression of the circumstances in which such people died and what they may have been like as a person.
Support is paramount
Properties become vacant or require cleaning and clearing for many different reasons. In SafeSite Security’s experience, it’s clear that some people can’t look after themselves and, without support, flounder into dire situations. Mental health issues are often the root of such desperate situations.
Hoarding is one such example where mental health problems can lead to abject conditions, explains Nerio:
“We were called to clear a house where the occupier used to scavenge the streets for rubbish to take back to his home, where he then hoarded it. This was a very extreme example of hoarding, but it did make me think about how I live my life. As a result, I had a major clearout of shoes, clothing and furniture and now live in a much less cluttered way.
“On another occasion, an old lady had become infirm and could no longer go upstairs in her home. She was fine living downstairs but couldn’t walk her dogs. Unfortunately, the dogs used the upstairs floor to relieve themselves, quickly rendering the house uninhabitable.
“It makes me think about my own situation, how much I value my family, and how important it is to keep a close support network. I talk about this with colleagues as we can all be affected by particular jobs we’ve worked on – but as long as we’re talking about it, we can get through it together.”
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