January 24-30, 2007

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Never at home

With lots of money at stake, North Bay volunteers prepare to seek out those who often try to stay as invisible as possible: the homeless. "The biggest challenge is finding everyone," says Georgia Berland, executive officer of the Sonoma County Task Force for the Homeless. "People are living in vehicles, and that's illegal, so they're afraid to be found." To stay eligible for Federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) money for services to homeless people, counties must do a homeless count on Jan. 31. There's a lot at stake: Sonoma County takes in $2 million a year from HUD for helping homeless residents; Marin gets $2.1 million; and Napa county hovers around $500,000. Sonoma County is doing a week of volunteer outreach to contact as many homeless residents as possible, inviting them to special events in 11 cities on Jan. 31 There'll be hot meals available at every site, with some venues offering services ranging from hot showers to veterinary care for pets. Each homeless person surveyed (only initials and birth date will be recorded, to avoid duplication) will receive a thank-you gift, such as rain gear or warm socks. To learn more about the Sonoma County effort, call 707.536.6111. Marin County has its volunteers lined up, but needs more gifts for homeless participants. "If we could get some nice warm socks, that would be cool," says Andrea Bizzell of the Marin Continuum of Housing and Services. She's also hoping for small-denomination vouchers for fast food or groceries. The count is challenging, because Marin has so much unoccupied space. "There are a lot of areas where people can reside that we don't know about," Bizzell said. Call 415.506.0125 for details. Napa also needs volunteers, gift donations and details about where to find homeless people, especially in the Lake Berryessa and upper valley areas; call 707.253.6103. "We also have a real need for Spanish-speaking individuals to help do the surveys," says Charlene Horton of Community Action Napa Valley.

I spy

After Sonoma State University awarded the campus bookstore concession to Barnes and Noble despite strong faculty opposition, most instructors chose to list their textbook orders with North Light Books in Cotati. On Jan. 16, store co-owner Barbara Iannoli observed two students turning over every single textbook and writing down the course number and title, and the book's ISBN number and price. When questioned, the students explained they were from the B&N campus bookstore. Iannoli says she's not surprised by the "spy" effort. "I'm radically against big corporate retail business. I don't put anything past them." The B&N campus bookstore manager says corporate policy won't let him comment on the incident.

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