Finding independence, recovery and a life filled with hope

Ottawa Salus residents at the Tulip festival
Mark MacAulay (second from left) with Salus tenants at the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Ottawa Salus.

For more than 40 years, Ottawa Salus has been providing supportive housing and mental health services to adults living with severe and persistent mental illness in our community.

Salus’ core conviction is that a home is a critical step to a successful life.

“People living with mental illness face a lot of stigma and barriers including very low income, substance use challenges, physical health issues, and gender and sexual discrimination, and for many, their Salus apartment may be the first home they have known in years,” says Mark MacAulay, executive director of Salus. “This home means the start of a new life and renewed hope.”

Salus provides a bridge between being in the hospital or shelter system and living independently.

While Salus owns and operates 14 buildings across the city, the organization is more than just a landlord. In addition to living with a serious mental illness, many clients have been dependent on the shelter system, have a history of chronic homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. This supportive housing model of care is effective in making housing a reality for so many people because of the crucial mental health support that frontline staff provide to clients.

Two seated women
Camille Therriault-Power, chair of Ottawa Salus’ board of directors and Lindsay Taub, chair of the philanthropy committee and board member at Salus.

Lindsay Taub, chair of the philanthropy committee and board member at Salus encourages our community to consider the impact they can have on our most marginalized population. “Salus is changing people’s lives, giving people hope, and the stability that they need.”

Salus offers various mental health services including case management, community development, recreation, rehabilitation and occupational therapy. “Our clinical services are designed to provide the level of support a client needs based on where they are in their recovery, while keeping them stabilized in their home,” says MacAulay.

Recovery from mental illness is not linear. Salus’ responsibility is to help build connections between clients and community partners, and empower clients to develop life skills and resiliency to better cope with and adapt to life’s challenges on their journey to wellness and independence.

Building a sense of community within each building is vital for clients, many of whom have no support system.

“The staff are my heroes and every day I have such respect for what they do, and for our clients, who are working hard to get better,” says Camille Therriault-Power, chair of Ottawa Salus’ board of directors.

The demand continues to grow. Salus has more than 500 people on their waitlist, which means people are waiting up to five years for housing, and three years for case management.

“The sector is underfunded and while our local, provincial and federal governments are making efforts towards this, we know that we need more, our waitlists show that,” says MacAulay. “Salus is committed to challenging the status quo, focusing on collaboration, partnerships and philanthropy to help solve a real social issue.”

Although some clients have been with Salus for years, the hope is for them to find independence and a connection in their community, to move beyond Salus.

“Housing is a human right,” says MacAulay. “We have a responsibility. Every day it’s our mission to find a solution, to work with our community partners, our government, and our larger community, to find that solution.”

Learn more about Ottawa Salus: https://www.salusottawa.org/about-us/