Photo Credit: Pete McCommons
Jail is not the place for eccentric hoarders.
Sheriff Heck Tate declined to arrest Boo Radley, because, you know, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, and all that. This is kind of how I feel about Athens-Clarke County Attorney Bill Berryman’s prosecution of William Orten Carlton Jr. for littering. Ort hasn’t killed anybody, and he sure as heck is no Boo Radley, but he has his peculiarities, and he can be hard to take. I do not blame neighbors for being upset with Ort, and I don’t blame community protection officers for telling him to clean up his yard and even helping him do it. I don’t think he should have spent that night in jail because of it, and I do think that what we have here is a serious problem, for which the law is ill-equipped.
Ort is not a litterer; he is a hoarder. He has been hoarding stuff all his life, and once he was old enough to drive, his hoarding accelerated. When he grew into independence, he began his famous road trips, which you could say turned into mobilized hoarding. After all these years, he has run out of space to accommodate his beer can collection, his record collection, his band flyer collection, his book collection, his T-shirt collection, his magazine collection, his memorabilia collection.
I haven’t watched the popular television program about hoarders, but if you have, I suppose you understand the difficulties of people who are overcome by hoarding (most of us, to some extent). I guess jail stops hoarding, though I think if Ort spent a stretch in jail, his cell would begin to accumulate soap wrappers, magazines, navel lint and anything else not confiscated by the constabulary.
Had not a tree limb fallen and pierced one of Ort’s old storage sheds behind his house, causing his collections to be scattered about the yard and calling attention to his mamma’s old car full of stuff and his daddy’s old car, too, Ort might have continued to get by as one of those eccentrics who just happens to live in a suburban neighborhood, because that’s where his family home is and has been since the neighborhood was developed. But now the limb has fallen, the cars and sheds are gone, and the surviving collections are at least stacked in the carport.
The question should not be whether to put Ort back in jail but what resources there are to help somebody like Ort get a handle on his hoarding. He has spent his lifetime collecting stuff. It’s part of who he is. The Hargrett Library rescued the Georgia Music Hall of Fame collection when it was evicted from Macon. Maybe they’ve got a room in the basement for some of Ort’s stuff. He has enriched our community by his presence and his presents; he just has a tendency to overdo it and let things get out of hand. Here’s hoping somebody can figure out how to find institutional space for his collections, but not for Ort.
You Can Help
Citizen Advocacy Athens-Clarke Inc. pairs local citizens with people who have disabilities and need somebody to help them cope with life and its public requirements. What a great idea! Just think how difficult it would be to deal with all the stuff you have to do if you couldn’t get around and couldn’t handle the bureaucratic requirements that face us all. Citizen Advocacy recruits people like you and finds you somebody who can benefit from your concern and your savvy.
Quick! Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the Athens-Clarke County Library from 5:30–7 p.m., go hear two longtime citizen advocates—Barbara Fischer, from Macon, and Tom Kohler, from Savannah. Both have been involved in citizen advocacy for a long time and will be sharing their experiences. You can hang around and go out to supper with them afterward, if you want to.
The Grumpy Retiree
Joe Wisenbaker has written a couple of columns in Flagpole about the process through which UGA retirees are having to cope with finding health insurance to replace what they’ve had through the university. Joe calls himself “The Grumpy Retiree,” and he has started a Facebook page under that name to help shed some light on the insurance problems that retirees are encountering. If you’re having to deal with this process or have friends or family who are, tune in to The Grumpy Retiree. Joe is grumpy, because he has an inquiring mind that is not satisfied with pat answers, and he digs for information. He’s happy to share it all with you and will respond to your comments and questions at facebook.com/TheGrumpyRetiree.