KENNEWICK -- A statistic has been weighing on the hearts and minds of members of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition.
About 80 of their fellow veterans in the Mid-Columbia have no roofs over their heads.
"We heard that and we thought, 'Oh my god, those people shouldn't be treated like that. We should help them,' " said Skip Novakovich, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and the coalition's president and board chairman.
About a month from now, the group expects to open the doors on a safe, warm place in Kennewick that six of those veterans can call home.
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Novakovich said the coalition was given through a grant application to the city of Kennewick a 2,100-square-foot, four-bedroom house in Kennewick near bus lines, grocery stores and other amenities.
The house was under foreclosure and being offered by the city through its Neighborhood Stabilization Program, he said.
The veterans coalition applied for the grant, and on Wednesday signed the paperwork to receive a free and clear title.
The group also has a pledge from Home Depot for materials to renovate the house, as well as new appliances being installed by the city with funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Novakovich said.
And members of the Young Professionals of the Tri-Cities, Habitat For Humanity and other civic groups have offered time and money to help with the project.
When it's all done, the six veterans will have a fullly remodeled, $200,000 home where they can live rent-free for up to two years while looking for work, going back to school or going through counseling.
They're calling the home a "transition house" where veterans can re-acclimate to civilian life after having been in combat.
"We're an organization that wants to help current veterans, past veterans or future veterans transition from military society back into civilian life and become productive members of civilian society," Novakovich said. "We find a lot of veterans are shadow warriors. They have seen things or done things they don't want to talk about. They distance themselves from the real world. We want to bring them back, show them that we care, treat them like a unique individual."
He said the coalition also wants the veterans to be part of the neighborhood where they will live, so the group is talking to neighbors about the home and plans to have a barbecue and open house once it's ready.
"Our responsibility is not just to the veterans, but also to the community and the neighborhood," Novakovich said. "We want to be good partners."
Veterans who live in the home will undergo a screening process to determine what services they may need -- and to ensure they don't have alcohol or drug problems and are ready to transition, he said.
The group plans to apply for a grant from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs that would pay for the veterans' needs and most of the upkeep on the house, but also is accepting donations of money, materials or labor to get the house ready.
Anyone who wants to help can call the coalition at 545-6558.