Not long ago, the Southeastern Washington Central Labor Council decided it was time to get out of the housing business.
The group, which represents about 20,000 union members from 35 unions in the region, had owned a low-income, multifamily housing development in Pasco for more years than Dennis Tillett, the labor council's current president, can remember.
But the council came to the conclusion it was time to focus on other things, Tillett said.
That decision ended up leading to a more than $1 million windfall for the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition.
The labor council recently handed over more than $215,000 cash -- the remnants of a bank account linked to the housing development -- and assigned a $1.2 million mortgage on the property to the veterans coalition.
The mortgage alone will bring in $6,500 per month to the volunteer-run coalition for 28 years.
"I never thought it would happen," said Skip Novakovich, president of the veterans coalition.
Novakovich told the Herald that he was contacted by a member of the labor council nearly a year ago about the council possibly donating the proceeds from sale of the housing development to the veterans coalition but said he thought he never would hear about it again.
Then the call came in late 2011 telling the coalition to have its attorney draw up the paperwork, he said.
Now, the coalition has a steady source of long-term income that Novakovich said will allow the organization to hire an executive director to oversee operations and to expand its transitional housing offerings for Tri-City veterans.
The coalition in August opened the Wagenaar-Pfister house in Kennewick, a place where homeless veterans can live for up to two years while they get back on their feet.
The house has space for up to seven men, where they can find a stable place to live, but also counseling, substance abuse programs, job referrals, clothing and food, among other help.
Novakovich said the coalition has a long-term vision to open other homes -- possible for homeless female veterans or a stable place where veterans can live while attending college.
Housing often is identified as one of the most pressing needs for area veterans, and the money from the labor council will help the coalition realize that vision sooner, Novakovich said.
Tillett said the council chose to transfer the money and the mortgage from its housing project to the veterans coalition in part because of the work the coalition is doing to help homeless veterans and partly because many union members are veterans themselves.
"We just want to pay back to the community in a way that would benefit people," Tillett said. "There are a lot of veterans in union organizations. We think it's a very worthy cause to help them get some more transition houses."