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Ottawa Salus ramps up amidst ‘record demand’ for affordable housing

Stakes are too high to stay quiet as the city's housing crisis grows more severe

Mark MacAulay, Ottawa Salus executive director
Mark MacAulay, executive director of Ottawa Salus

Ottawa Salus has been quietly working for over 45 years to empower adults living with severe and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders to live independently.

Often referred to as a “little known gem”, Salus is one of Ottawa’s largest providers of independent supportive housing. 

With Ottawa in an affordable housing crisis, daily living costs on the rise, and with mental health and substance use challenges on a post-pandemic rise, Salus’ waitlists are growing longer by the day. 

Now, with the stakes so high, Salus is raising its voice about the important work it does in our community. “What we do is not only evidence-based and effective, but also is in record demand,” says Mark MacAulay, Salus executive director.

Over 45 years of impact for people in our community 

Salus has grown, in the past four decades, from owning one building to owning and operating 14 buildings and three condominiums across Ottawa. But its impact goes beyond bricks and mortar to become embedded in the human fabric of Ottawa. 

With more than 700 adults a year either in Salus housing, or living in their own homes, Salus provides a variety of integrated mental, and substance use health support services. 

These specialized services include case management, community development, peer support, harm reduction counselling, housing coordination, occupational therapy, and recreation and wellness. 

Salus’ supportive housing model of care is making housing a reality for so many people because it provides more than a roof over someone’s head – it provides crucial mental health supports tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.

As Claire, a Salus client says, “Salus gave me different opportunities, a second chance, and made me believe in myself.” 

A new Salus “Ageing with Dignity” building is on the horizon

With its new building well into planning, Salus is working towards its vision of stable housing for everyone.

A new 54-unit building and four townhomes will have ageing in place supports for clients who age much earlier than the general population due to years of trauma, mental health and substance use health disorders.

These new buildings are part of an ambitious Salus goal to double, at minimum, its capacity to serve people by the year 2030. 

Salus is collaborating with hospital and community partners to challenge the status quo and tackle the housing and mental health crisis head on, so that everyone has a safe and stable place to call home.

“When we, together as a community, can say we solved this issue I will relax – until then, I can think of nothing better to spend my time on,” says MacAulay. 

Where hope finds a home 

To Salus clients, hope is so much more than a fleeting feeling. It is a life-changing chance for them to live with dignity and independence, the way they have always wanted to. 

Salus clients have experienced hard to imagine hardships in their lives. Despite living with trauma and serious mental and substance use health concerns, they continue to work hard, to rebuild their lives and find a brighter tomorrow.

Salus programs and services not only nurture their hopes, but also helps them develop the skills to be resilient and live the life they choose.

Salus client John says, “Salus has been there for me through the highs and lows. The support workers never gave up on me.”  

To learn more about Ottawa Salus, visit