BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. (WDVM) — The impressive growth in West Virginia’s Berkeley Springs comes with some daunting social challenges.

A big-hearted coalition is working to help the homeless. Especially during the pandemic these past two years with big-city residents relocating to the countryside, Berkeley Springs has been a big draw. The city is still relatively close to Washington D.C. while still being quiet, scenic and charming — and real estate is a relative bargain.

West Virginia U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito was even here at the start of the week to showcase the success. But the fortunes for a growing number of locals who have been here a while can take a turn for the worse.

“Several people in the community got together and started a shelter per se,” said Carmen Winiarski, head of the Morgan County homeless coalition. “It started out in several different churches.”

Winiarski is a generous community volunteer who has raised money to put the homeless in motels. But, she said that “it just got harder and harder because of COVID to have a place to house the homeless here.”

Winiarski is now renovating an abandoned pawn shop in town to be a homeless shelter. Who will benefit?

“Just people struggling who just try to make themselves, help themselves into a better place,” Winiarski said. “It’s not always a negative reason. not always drugs and alcohol.”

With the possible help of the local United Way and generous partnerships, the shelter can be open soon. The coalition is grateful for the community’s support.

The homeless coalition is planning a bowling tournament in Berkeley Springs next month to help raise funds for the project.