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Controversial arrest of Gastonia veteran bringing attention to needs for area's homeless veterans

There are at least 180 homeless veterans in Gaston County, though the number is likely higher according to the Gaston County Veterans Council.

BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — The controversial arrest of a homeless army veteran in Gastonia is bringing attention to the broader issue of homeless veterans who are battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Gastonia Police arrested Joshua Rohrer Wednesday night, alleging he illegally begged for money along a road and resisted arrest.

Multiple witnesses accused Gastonia Police of unnecessarily escalating the situation by roughing up Rohrer and tasing his service dog, Sunshine.

Michael Meeks, Sr., an Army veteran and the chairman of the Gaston County Veterans Council, said Rohrer is one of at least 180 homeless veterans in the county, though he believed that number is higher.

"From the veterans' standpoint, I think if the [Gastonia] city council members, county commissioners would do more, that would help out a lot," Meeks said.

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Meeks, Bud Strope, and Michael Coy are trying to help the county's homeless veterans by developing Camp Centurion, which will provide transitional housing for 10 to 12 veterans near Bessemer City.

"When they get out of the service, it’s not just that they lost their occupation, they’ve lost their identity," Strope, a Marine veteran, said. "That’s what makes it very difficult for them so we hope to help them find that identity again."

However, Strope and Meeks said they still need donations to complete Camp Centurion.

With attention focused on Rohrer's arrest, Meeks and Strope hope people will also pay attention to Gaston County's broader need for more services for veterans transitioning from the military.

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"I had some trouble when I got out of the service as a Vietnam veteran," Strope said. "My hope is that we can get some veterans in here and connect them with all the programs and all the help that they need."

For more information on Camp Centurion, click here.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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