12/19/2011 03:36 EST | Updated 02/18/2012 05:12 EST

‘Wet’ shelter opens in Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska, is opening a shelter for alcoholics that won’t separate them from their booze.

The shelter will be located in a renovated downtown motel.

Alcoholics will be given a place to stay, but unlike many church or charity run shelters, they will be allowed to drink in their rooms.

Shirley Lee, the ‘wet’ shelter’s project director, told a group assembled for a ribbon-cutting event last week that housing is the first priority – rehabilitation for chronic drinkers comes second.

“By providing a safe place to live, it provides the first step for people to develop the skills for improved lives and self-sufficiency into the community,” said Lee.

The project will offer 47 low-rent apartments to homeless alcoholics in the central-Alaskan city.

The shelter will provide meals and daily welfare cheques. Recovery and job-training programs will also be available on-site.

Lee says the program is aimed at breaking a cycle of living on the street, drinking and moving through the revolving doors of the legal and medical systems.

This is the second shelter of its kind to open in Alaska – one has been operating in Anchorage for about two years. 'Wet' shelters have not yet come to Canada's North, but some Yukon non-profit organizations have talked about starting one in Whitehorse.

The first 'wet' shelter in North America opened in Seattle in 2005.