Ottawa Salus has a history of innovation within the supportive housing sector. In 2016, we built the first ever not-for-profit passive building in North America. Since that build six years ago, Salus has been inundated with referrals for supportive and stable housing.
“Our waitlists are not waning and more people than ever are finding themselves in precarious living situations, right here in Ottawa,” says Mark MacAulay, executive director of Salus. “The situation is becoming dire, especially for our aging clients.”
New building for aging population
As Salus clients age, this presents a real challenge in terms of housing structures. Clients need access to elevators, wheelchair accessible ramps and entrances, as well as bathrooms and kitchens that work for people with mobility issues.
To help resolve this acute need, Salus is in the beginning stages of planning the construction of a new build that will contain approximately 60 units, focused on the mobility needs of our aging population.
In addition to our aging population, we know that mental health and substance use health challenges are on the rise. We also know that there is not enough existing support for many of our clients who are coming out of the hospital system or city shelters.
Transitional housing: New condominium program
Acknowledged widely as a cutting-edge approach to recovery support, Salus’ existing transitional housing programs that include our Forensic Supportive Housing Program (FSHP) and our Transitional Rehabilitation Housing Program (TRHP), work to provide intensive support to adults recovering from mental illness, while living in a neighbourhood setting.
This innovative approach aims to adapt programs to clients, as opposed to clients adapting to programs and in doing so, we remove barriers to community integration. These two specialized programs have proven to be a highly effective approach that supports people who are leaving mental health hospitals and having difficulty accessing mental health services.
In order to better support our partner hospitals and grow our capacity in the number of clients coming from the hospital system that we can house and support, Salus has a plan to create affordable and supportive housing opportunities for clients who have graduated from our transitional rehabilitation programs, through the launch of our first-ever Condominium Program.
“This program will benefit clients who are capable of living independently and are choosing to integrate into the community, with the added benefit of a supportive landlord with Salus,” says Christa McIntosh, senior manager of property & administration at Salus.
A future filled with hope and possibility
In 2014, Marina was struggling with undiagnosed schizophrenia that eventually led to her becoming homeless and living on the street. After ending up in the hospital, Marina was referred to the Transitional Rehabilitation Housing Program at Salus for one year and remained a client for eight years.
“I can confidently say that TRHP and Salus staff saved my life,” says Marina, former Salus client. “With Salus by my side, I regained the confidence that I had lost all those years ago.”
Marina says the key to Salus being successful in helping people find stable housing is the supportive housing provided to our clients. “They don’t just house people through affordable housing – they also offer the mental health support and resources to every tenant who is willing to receive the help and begin the journey to a better life.”
As Salus continues to build capacity within our community through our new aging in place build and Condo Program, we will continue to work towards providing a better life for people who are struggling, a future that is filled with hope and a stable place to call home.
“I finally have a good support system and a fulfilling life again, thanks to the care and support I received from Salus,” says Marina. “Without them, I would still be on a disability program, I wouldn’t have had the self-confidence to look for a job, I might even still be on the streets – or worse.”
Each and every one of us deserves a life filled with meaning and hope, regardless of what life throws our way.
Marina is forever grateful to Salus for the positive impact our Transitional Rehabilitation Housing Program has had on her life – she now works full time for the government and lives independently – and for the incredible staff who have helped her along her journey to recovery.
“Salus staff work hard to connect people like me to their community, to themselves and to the life they are meant to live.”