Salus is a registered Canadian charity that for over 35 years has been an unwavering champion in meeting the rehabilitation and supportive housing needs of adults in the Ottawa area with severe mental illness. Our clients most fervent hope is to begin a road to recovery from mental illness.
Salus was formed in the 1970s by a dedicated group of concerned parents, social workers, and doctors in the Ottawa area. Salus, a Latin word meaning “of health and prosperity” was chosen as the name of our new community minded organization.
This small group of compassionate, community-minded people were deeply troubled by the lack of services for people suffering from mental illness in the Ottawa area.
Until the 1950s availability of psychiatric treatment in Canada was very limited, mostly in provincial mental hospitals. In the 50s and 60s the introduction of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs made treatment of illnesses more effective. Hospital stays were shortened, and the number of provincial mental hospitals dwindled.
At first, people thought that all psychiatric patients needed was, access to psychiatric care and medication. For many, this was true.
Our founders however were concerned that far too many vulnerable people with severe mental illnesses were being discharged from hospitals without adequate supports. For these people hospitals had provided treatment, housing and recreation. Salus believed that releasing people with severe mental illness into the community without supports would result in breakdowns, re-hospitalization and worse.
Despite the lack of models for supportive housing at that time, the people that formed Salus believed that supportive housing and support services were an urgent and vital need for people with severe mental illness in our communities.
Beginnings were very simple and full of challenges. Since there was no money at all, Salus began by encouraging clients referred to us to pool their resources. Three or four clients would live together, sharing the rent and other costs. Unfortunately this initial approach faced some hurdles. Residents often had poor social skills, and ran into conflicts. Living alone, they were often desperately lonely. We had learned that going directly into a group living situation was not the answer.
Salus then decided that it needed to set up a staffed home where clients could learn social and practical skills. Funding was hard to obtain, but unwilling to let the project die, three board members personally guaranteed a bank loan, and a home in Centretown Ottawa was purchased. Another founding board member left her job as a nun and agreed to work for Salus without any guarantee that she would be paid for her tireless efforts. Eventually, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided money to repay the mortgage and in August 1979, the Ontario Ministry of Health agreed to provide funding for operations. Salus was on its way.
In the decades since its humble and precarious beginnings Salus has grown to become a respected and professional organization with over eighty staff. Salus support services include case management, community development, recreation, rehabilitation and occupational therapy. We provide a range of all of our services in French and English and many are provided to Deaf clients, as several of our staff are trained in American Sign Language and langue des signes québécoise.
Salus now owns nine apartment buildings, a single family home and 4 shared living homes. We are bringing hope and a place to call home for hundreds of adults in the Ottawa area. We have started Neighborhood Watch programs, are avid gardeners and have created innovative programs that involve music, art and recreation. Our clients, their families and the community are integral in the work we do.
Thanks to our generous donors, we are also able to provide grants to enable clients to pursue individual interest courses at College, University and in the community. We work closely with agencies like Canadian Mental Health Association, Causeway Work Centre, Montfort Renaissance and the Royal Ottawa Hospital.
Through the commitment of its volunteer board of directors, dedicated staff, community partners and generous supporters, Salus is continuing to look for ways to expand supportive housing options and mental health services in the Ottawa area. We are committed to helping adults with severe mental illness find what they want the most – hope.
Charitable Registration Number: 12985 6340 RR0001