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Healdsburg's day-labor success an inspiration

  • Jessica Barnes of Cloverdale waits for work at the Healdsburg Day Labor Center on Monday, April 15, 2013. She commutes by bus everyday at 6 a.m. to make it to the center in hoping that she might find a job for the day. Although Barnes is a Certified Nurses Assistant, she is waiting to have her certification transferred from another state and must find work through other venues. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Operating from an inconspicuous modular building at the back of the City Hall parking lot, the Healdsburg Day Labor Center is part hiring hall and part safety net for the hundreds who come annually looking for work.

It's helped provide jobs, food and housing assistance, and cut down on the number of men lingering in the city's touristy Healdsburg Plaza seeking work.

In the seven years it's been in existence, the center has established enough good will that officials see it as a model for a similar facility in Fulton.

"The Healdsburg Day Labor Center has become part of the fabric of the Healdsburg community," said North County Supervisor Mike McGuire. "From where it started to where it is now, I think we can call it a success."

After more than a year of community meetings in Fulton, there is consensus to establish a similar, but mobile labor center run by the California Human Development Corp., the same poverty and employment assistance group that runs the Healdsburg center.

"It's just so exciting," Roni Berg, a Fulton resident for more than 20 years said of the modified bus that will serve as labor center. She said the problems with the highly visible throngs of unemployed men at Fulton's crossroads have been an issue for longer than she has lived there.

Complaints run the gamut from littering to public urination, homelessness and women feeling intimidated.

"People were upset nothing happened until now," she said. "We know from other centers there are all these benefits that come with organized day labor centers."

Besides Healdsburg, there is also a separately run day labor center that was established in Graton, in 2007.

They are bellwethers of the economy.

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