GASTONIA, N.C. -- An old building is getting a new purpose to shelter veterans in need. The building hasn't been used in decades and needs million of dollars in renovation work. It's the old North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital in Gaston County.

We envision taking this whole downstairs and converting it back to living space, says Pathways Regional Director Rhett Melton.

With the grand staircase still standing, it's evident there's a lot of work to be done.

It's all going to have to be gutted in a sense, anyway, and a lot of renovation, said Melton.

Decades ago these hallways were filled with nurses providing care at the infirmary. Now the hope is these hallways can provide care to veterans in need.

The specific vision is to have this converted to residential apartments to serve those who are currently homeless with a disability, noted Melton.

The county is now working with Pathways, a state agency that oversees mental health needs in this area. The space would be converted into 20 private rooms with common areas for other activities.

They would have shared meals, they'd have shared TV time and educational time in the common areas and then they'd have their own private rooms to go to for living quarters, says Melton.

Gaston County Commission Chair Donnie Loftis is a veteran himself and works with counties across the country in how to take care of local veterans. He says this project is a needed one.

They've given their life, they've come back injured, come back disabled and (they are) not really able to take (care of) themselves now, said Loftis.

And with a vacant building that has such strong history in the region, both the county and Pathways agree it only makes sense to renovate it to give back to veterans in the area.

The need is greater than 20 beds. This is only a start for the community to meet that need, but this is 20 fewer people who would sleep outside, says Melton.

They expect the renovation to cost around $2.5 million. They've applied for a $600,000 federal and state grant. They should know by May if it was approved.

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