- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Nicole Bessette and Mike Evans are home and office cleaners, determined to give their clients white glove treatment - even if the gloves are protecting them from bacteria, disease and fleas.

The couple began doing odd jobs and light cleaning for people six years ago, but their Westfield-based Marvel Cleaners business quickly began specializing in homes of hoarders.

“We found most housecleaners in the area wouldn’t do hoarders’ homes. We were happy to help, and it turns out we ended up being the people to call,” says Bessette.

Bessette and Evans have encountered some horrendous hoarding. One time they removed 62 commercial-sized garbage bags of trash and belongings from someone living in a 700-square-foot apartment. Another time they walked into a home where the owner had been hoarding cats.

“The word infested isn’t even the right word,” says Bessette. “It had a really bad flea problem. It was condemned by the state. We walked in and within 10 seconds we were literally covered in fleas.”

She and Evans fled the fleas and went back into the home only after donning protective white suits with respirator masks. “We had to suit up with protective gear and goggles, (or) otherwise the fleas were going to eat us alive,” she says.

Bessette never imagined hoarding was what she now calls a rampant problem. Marvel Cleaners averages four calls a week during the spring and summer from people overwhelmed by the chaos. “These are not repeat clients,” she says. “These are different people who need their place cleaned out. This surprised me.”

Evans and Bessette have more to worry about than helping people dig out from months or years of neglect. They must also protect themselves from getting hurt, bitten by animals or contracting a disease from rodent feces.

“We have to take precautions, but we make sure we keep it low key so it doesn’t seem offensive,” she explains. “We don’t want our clients to think we’re afraid to be in their homes. We’re not afraid at all, but we have to protect ourselves.”

If specializing in hoarders distinguishes Marvel Cleaners, so does their gentle touch with furniture, furnishings and, especially, their clients.

“We really empathize with them because they tell us they have a hard time getting help from anyone else. The last thing they need is to be judged or for someone to shame them. It’s a really delicate situation, and we’re really empathetic,” says Bessette.

Bessette and Evans don’t clean homes because they’re neat freaks. They simply want to give people a clean start.

“We like it when we’re finished with a home and the person is just really grateful they can walk around. They feel like they get their life back,” says Bessette. “It feels really good to help them out.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2tr8XI7

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Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/

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