I have enjoyed my legal services journey thus far this year as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps fellow with MHAS. I’ve been fortunate to find veteran service agencies willing to partner for community legal clinics so that I can reach more veterans who have legal problems. Seeing the project grow under my leadership in this way has brought great satisfaction, but the real joy in the project is working with my veteran clients in resolving problems that, without legal intervention, could have a lasting negative impact.
Housing and homelessness prevention are big challenges for many veteran clients, particularly senior veterans who find themselves in difficult housing situations. Having an eviction on record makes it very difficult to make a fresh start in new housing, so it is critical to provide effective legal advocacy to resolve these situations and prevent clients from getting evictions on their records.
James (not client’s real name) is a veteran with mental disabilities who received a notice to quit his apartment unit after several difficult interactions with staff and other tenants. I spoke to James about his rights under fair housing laws and submitted to his landlord a written reasonable accommodation request seeking more time for James to move out. The landlord rejected this request and filed an unlawful detainer complaint to have James evicted. Working with the landlord’s attorneys, I negotiated a stipulation, giving James time to move out, dismissing the case without James paying past due rent and sealing the eviction from the public record. As a result, James was able to secure affordable housing in a safe neighborhood, and can continue to pursue housing opportunities in the future without the blemish of eviction on his record.
Income stability is another critical issue for our clients. I recently argued a client’s SSI appeal case before an administrative law judge, and I hope to report on the results of that hearing in my next blog.