Orange County nonprofit helps veterans manage legal challenges

TUSTIN, Calif (KABC) -- US Army veteran Victor Lewis was getting nowhere with his landlord after reporting a cockroach infestation in his apartment.

Lewis, who served as an infantry supply clerk at Fort Campbell, Kentucky from 1983 to 1984, had enough with his landlord. He turned to a nonprofit law firm, Veterans Legal Institute, which stepped in to represent Lewis free of charge after his apartment complex did not resolve the issue quickly enough.

As a result, VLI got the apartment complex to move Lewis into a new two-bedroom apartment with no roaches at the same price he was paying for his one-bedroom unit.

"I salute Nicki and VLI for helping me in this situation," Lewis said. "You'll never know how much of a great help that is when you can come home and feel comfortable in your home."

VLI secured Lewis two months of free rent, the complex waived his moving fee and hired a new exterminator for the entire complex. VLI's impact was felt not only by Lewis, but everyone that lived in his complex.

"It's really exciting when we can hold landlords to their obligations and make sure that our veterans are living in habitable and safe units and safe housing environments," VLI attorney Nicole Minevich said. "It's really exciting when we can improve their lives in that way. It makes my day every single day we get to do it."

Lewis considers himself fortunate, as many veterans don't have access to free legal services that VLI provided.

"I think it's really important to have organizations like VLI for veterans but really all nonprofit legal service organizations where we can hold these actors accountable where they usually wouldn't be," Minevich said.

After VLI's help, Victor says he finally now feels comfortable in his new place.

"VLI is an ally of the armed forces," Lewis said. "Any veteran who is languishing in their situation, I would recommend to them that they give VLI a call."
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