Ask Tia Juana- Dumpster diving

Dear Tia,

I have an elderly neighbor, who seems harmless, who has been going through my trash. This has been going on for a while, and at first, I dismissed it as just unneighborly behavior. But now it appears he’s set up a “junkyard” on his property with items he’s collected from dumpsters around the neighborhood for sale. Not only that- I’ve seen individuals, who don’t live in the neighborhood, hauling even more junk to his yard. I am now worried about having things stolen from my yard. I’ve asked him to stop going through my dumpster, but he just ignores me and continues rummaging. Again, he is an elderly man, and I don’t want to make things more uncomfortable or embarrass him, but I would really like him to stop doing this. How can I address the situation in the most civil manner? I am not just concerned about my property but everyone in the neighborhood because this clearly represents a public health and safety risk.

-Concerned neighbor

Dear neighbor,

Apparently, there is no law that prohibits anyone from dumpster-diving, but it seems that the problem here goes beyond the nuisance of trash being scattered. The poor gentleman is putting himself at risk for injury and for contact with contaminants and spoiled food products that could make him very ill. While his dumpster-diving may be nothing more than a diversion for the gentleman, it sounds as though he could also suffer from a hoarding disorder, which is difficult to treat. Who should be ashamed of themselves are the opportunistic dirtbags who are taking advantage of a convenient dumping station.

As harmless as this gentleman’s activities seem, I wouldn’t leave anything within his reach that is not nailed down. It may be that besides hoarding, he may be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s which makes him incapable of discerning what is trash and what is fair game. Don’t waste your time contacting APS, because if the gentleman can answer a few questions and appears lucid, they will not do anything. My best advice is to get a lock for your dumpster and save your breath. Good luck!

Tia Juana will cheerfully provide advice for anyone that asks. Just mail your questions to “Ask Tia Juana” at PO Box 8, Van Horn, Texas 79855. All questions will remain anonymous unless there is a chance for extortion. Disclaimer: Tia Juana is not a licensed counselor or therapist and none of the advice should be considered professional.