A worker readies a building at 555 Fuller Ave. in downtown Kelowna for its opening, within 10 days, as a 40-bed homeless shelter.

Residents of a new homeless shelter to open soon in downtown Kelowna will be able to use illegal drugs on the premises.

Part of the building at 555 Fuller Ave., now under renovation, will be designated as a drug-use area.

“Drug use will be permitted on site, however, only in a designated area that would be monitored by staff and require safe disposal of needles,” Dawn Himer of the John Howard Society, the shelter’s operator, writes in a letter to surrounding property owners.

“Although we anticipate most drug-use will happen inside the housing, the society would be sweeping the streets daily for garbage as a courtesy to neighbours,” Himer writes.

Allowing people chosen to live in the shelter to use illegal drugs is in keeping with the operating model followed at similar facilities.

Under the so-called “housing first” approach, priority is given to providing people with stable accommodation and then encouraging them to consult with professionals to address whatever substance abuse issues they may have.

“If we exclude people with substance abuse issues, they would remain on the street with deteriorating health,” Himer writes in the letter. “Harm reduction practices, based on Interior Health’s guidance, would be followed within the housing in order to prevent overdoses.”

The Fuller Avenue building was long used by Pathways, a society that provides services to those with developmental disabilities. However, the property is owned by the City of Kelowna and Pathways is not involved in the homeless shelter.

Plans are for the shelter to close on March 31, with the building’s demolition to follow. Pathways plans to build a six-storey building on the site as a residence for its clients.

The Kelowna branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is located next to the 555 Fuller Ave. building, and club president Jim White on Tuesday expressed support for the forthcoming homeless shelter.

Other properties in the area include single-family homes, condominium buildings, an alternative school and the offices of The Daily Courier newspaper.