Poor Plight

"I had to crawl myself out of the street," says Miguel Chappotti, 66, a legally blind man who was hit by a car in Salinas earlier this month. It was just one in a string of bad luck he's had, including losing a room at a motel close to the services he needs.

Miguel Chappotti, 66, is having a string of bad luck, to put it mildly.

All in one week, the Salinas man was: detained by police for three days on a charge that was later deemed unfounded; thrown out of the motel where he was living; the victim of theft; and hit by a car, among other things.

Chappotti has recovered after four days in the hospital. He’s now in a motel – farther from services in downtown Salinas than his last motel – as local agencies attempt to help him get back on his feet.

“The biggest setback is I’m way too far from the places I need to go,” he says.

Chappotti, who is legally blind, was more comfortable in his old, familiar neighborhood. He was using his cane the day he stepped off a curb when the signal started chirping, indicating the light had changed. A car made a right-hand turn on red, hitting him then driving off without stopping. Chappotti could not describe the make or model of the car to police.

“People don’t realize what an impairment that is,” says Samantha Kelley, a caseworker with the nonprofit Blind and Visually Impaired Center of Monterey County. Chappotti depends on devices provided by the center to read. One of those devices was stolen – along with his phone – when the first motel packed up his stuff while he was in jail. He has a new phone, but can’t see well enough to know which button to push to answer it.

His situation highlights how a problem can tip the scales for people with few resources.

“Being on the edge of housing makes the individual so vulnerable to any number of circumstances,” says Elliott Robinson, director of the Monterey County Department of Social Services. “It takes all their skills just to survive and avoid the next calamity.”

Kelley reports the Central Coast Center for Independent Living and the Department of Rehabilitation hopes to help him find a job and housing closer to services.

“Things happen to people and unfortunately they happened to me,” Chappotti says. “I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me.”

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