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Moving On: A Public Transportation Success Story in Rural California

By Alma Almanza, Salinas, CA

Alma Almanza of the Central Coast Center for Independent Living
Alma Almanza of the Central Coast Center for Independent Living


Jesse Madrigal was working at the customer service department in a construction supply store in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1991. He had a nervous break down at age 41. Since he did not have a family of his own he went to live with his sister in Greenfield, California.

At that time Jesse was hospitalized for five weeks and was diagnosed with clinical depression. He was financially dependent on his sister after his release from the hospital. In 1995 Jesse had a relapse and was hospitalized once again. He recovered and ended up living in an institution for several months.

Upon his release, Jesse began receiving Social Security assistance. Jesse decided to rent a one-bedroom apartment close to his sister's house. Jesse said he felt more independent in his own place. He enjoyed living alone but did not have the motivation to do anything with his time. Living in Greenfield, a small rural town with a population of 16,000, Jesse didn't have a way to get to a nearby city.

Jesse's social worker from the Department of Mental Health, Joe, continuously encouraged him to look for work, enroll in adult education classes or take up a hobby. Jesse was not motivated to do anything. He just watched car repair shows on TV every time he had the opportunity to do so.

In 2002 during a home visit with Jesse, Joe discovered Jesse's interest in car repair. He suggested that Jesse take mechanic classes at a junior college that was 40 miles away from Greenfield. Jesse reminded Joe that he did not have transportation available so attending college was not an option for him. It was then that Joe gave Jesse the good news.

Public Transit

Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST), a local public transportation provider, began providing services to south Monterey County, which included Greenfield, Monday through Friday. Jesse was hesitant to attend college. Jesse said,

"I have a 1971 Triumph Speedfire in the garage and my dream is to fix it. Thinking that I would be able to fix my car gave me the motivation to attend college. I was informed that the Department of Rehabilitation would pay for my books and transportation. Everything was there, so I said why not?"

Jesse's condition was stabilized with medication so it was easier for him to make a decision. Jesse began using MST as his means of transportation and is currently attending a junior college to obtain an Auto Mechanic certificate.

According to Jesse, "Public transportation opened the doors for me. It made a difference in my life. I intend to obtain my Auto Mechanic certificate and get a job. I want to be self-sufficient."

Jesse attributes his success to family support, the desire to fix his car and, perhaps most importantly, public transportation.

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