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11.28.07

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Nūz: Goodwill Industries steps up to save the flea market.

Goodwill to The Rescue

Santa Cruz flea market enthusiasts will have one more weekend to browse the wares offered on the Soquel Avenue drive-in theater lot, and possibly more. The market was originally scheduled for closure last weekend, Nov. 25, but a last-minute reprieve allowed it to stay open until Dec. 2. Now, there are tentative plans to keep it open even longer with help from Goodwill Industries of Santa Cruz.

As recently as last week, it looked like there was no hope for the local flea market. Sutter Health had purchased the property on which the flea market operated from the Skyview Drive-in partnership, and had announced closure of the market due to the high costs of liability insurance. However, Sutter spokesman Ben Drew added that the nonprofit medical foundation would be willing to consider allowing the flea market to stay open if a qualified organization could cover those liability costs.

Enter Goodwill Industries of Santa Cruz. Representatives from the used-goods store took some initial steps toward becoming the saviors of the flea market last week when they met with representatives from Sutter Health and the grassroots Save the Flea Market community group. In the meeting, Goodwill Santa Cruz president Michael Paul agreed to draw up a "financial feasibility study" and then meet with Goodwill's board of directors in the early months of next year.

If the board of directors approves the funding plan, Goodwill will pay the liability insurance costs for another year or so, allowing the flea market to stay open while organizers look for a permanent location. Drew says that Sutter won't begin construction on the property for at least another year.

While Paul isn't making any promises, he says that in his personal view, the flea market fits into Goodwill's mission of reuse and recycling.

"It's a little variation on a theme," he says, adding with caution: "If the board of directors say it's not in our mission, then it's [not going to happen]."

Drew says that Goodwill is "a very good organization," and that it would be qualified to cover the costs. Flea market supporters may have to wait until January or February of next year to hear back on the Goodwill board of director's decision.

If you love the flea market, Nu_z advises you to cross your fingers, but not to hold your breath.

World AIDS Day

This Saturday, Dec. 1, as the ninth World AIDS Day comes to a close, the Santa Cruz AIDS Project will host its annual remembrance at the Clock Tower in downtown Santa Cruz. From 6:30 to 8pm, students from UCSC's Rainbow Theater, singers from Inner Light Ministries and speakers from Holy Cross Church and First Congregational Church will pay homage to the 25 million people around the world who have died of AIDS since 1981, while high school students read the names of hundreds who have died of the disease in Santa Cruz County. Afterward the event will move to Lifestyle Culinary Center on Cooper Street, where a reception featuring donated food and crafts for sale—including banana-leaf greeting cards from Rwanda and other African goods—will raise money to send a diagnostic machine to an AIDS clinic in Rwanda, where SCAP board member Dr. Wendy Leonard directs Project Ihangane. The event caps off a week of lectures and films hosted by SCAP.

Tonight at UCSC's Oakes College, Room 105, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Leonard will give a talk on public health and medical approaches to treating HIV/AIDS, both in the United States and abroad. "Most people hear on the news all about the devastation it's wreaking in Africa and forget about what's happening here," says SCAP executive director Merle Smith, adding that the highest incidence of new cases locally is among Latinos. "So much money is given to Africa, and small nonprofits here in the States are struggling because they can't get the big foundations to donate locally. It's a constant battle to get this agency to survive."

Tomorrow night the series continues at First Congregational Church at 900 High St. with two short films geared toward adolescents: Abstaining from Reality and Girl Positive. The first addresses benighted U.S. HIV/AIDS policy abroad, which is to promote the "ABC" method. This approach stresses, in order, abstinence, being faithful and using condoms and has taken a drubbing from analysts all over the world for the obvious reason, articulated by Smith: "Any sensible adult would recommend that teenagers abstain, but reality lets us know that doesn't happen." The second film tracks the story of a young girl who is infected with HIV. Smith adds that this film speaks to young people who engage in risky behavior, a demographic SCAP knows. "We deal with a homeless youth population," Smith says.

Leslie Goodfriend, senior health services manager with the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, reports that of almost 600 people in Santa Cruz County who have been diagnosed with AIDS since 1983, 242 were still believed to be alive in December 2006. Unfortunately, HIV figures are harder to track owing to a new rule about how those numbers should be reported. The best she can say at this point is that, of the 1,000-1,500 HIV tests the county gives each year, about 10 or 12 come back positive.

It seems an altogether manageable situation here in Santa Cruz County, but Goodfriend says the county never relaxes its vigilance.

"We get frustrated when our funding gets cut in prevention because we're so close to places where there's higher prevalence," she says. "It's higher [in Santa Clara County] than here. And San Francisco too. There are people that go to San Francisco to party."

By far the greatest risk factor remains men who have sex with men (the term "gay" isn't used because not all such men identify as gay). Goodfriend says 70 percent of AIDS cases in the county are men who have sex with men. Injection drug use is the next-highest risk factor, accounting for 10 percent of cases. Only 3 percent of the county's cases are women who caught the HIV virus through heterosexual transmission.

Goodfriend says this time next year the county will have a much clearer picture of how many people in the county have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. "We're making headway," she says.

Those Who Help Themselves

The Santa Cruz County Courthouse can be a confusing and intimidating place. Without a lawyer, self-represented litigants are often left to fend for themselves in a sea of complicated rules and counterintuitive procedures. Thankfully, Sasha Morgan is here.

Morgan has been working since July in the newly created position of self-help manager. Morgan and two other attorneys working under her set up shop in the court's law library at select times during the week and wait for the questions to come pouring in from those without the money for a lawyer.

While they can't provide legal direction, the self-help assistants can clarify procedures and lay out the legal options for those representing themselves—all without a dime being spent.

"Our targeted population tends to be very low-income," says Morgan. "We definitely are not there to take the place of an attorney, and we often recommend people to an attorney if their issues are complicated. The struggle is that the population we work with simply can't afford an attorney or they're just lost and don't know their options."

Morgan reports positive results in helping folks traverse the labyrinthine legal system, and she's just getting warmed up. Once the new county courthouse in Watsonville is finished being built—in or after April 2008—Morgan will be able to leave her seat in the law library and get comfy in a room devoted completely to self-representing litigants.

"In Watsonville, [we'll be advising on] family law, guardianship, civil harassment, name change and landlord-tenant cases," says Morgan. "We're going to have tables, four public computers and a library of do-it-yourself legal books. People will be able to come in with other legal issues that we're not directly assisting with and get some guidance."

In the meantime, Morgan is looking forward to working with many of the nonprofit programs that help people help themselves. These groups include the senior legal service and a newly expanded small claims mediation program administered by the Conflict Resolution Center (CRC).

CRC president Nancy Heischman reports that a new grant from the State Administrative Office of the Court is allowing her to expand the popular small claims mediation program to Watsonville. CRC will also be working more extensively with the Latino community by ensuring a Spanish-speaking mediator is always on hand.

Mediation is a system that allows litigants to resolve their differences by settling outside of court with the help of a neutral bar-certified attorney. CRC will now be extending its hours to include weekends and nights, which are often more convenient for working people."So the idea was to make that mediation option available much more widely," explains Heischman. "Instead of sitting in a crowded courtroom waiting their turn on a docket with 16 other cases, they get a private, confidential, up to two-hour mediation session. It's a better deal all the way around for the same fee people pay to file a small claims lawsuit."


Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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