Life-saving clinic serves people not welcome elsewhere

The Salvus clinic is celebrating 10 years of helping people on the margins of society, and also remembering patients they've lost to often difficult lives on the streets of Moncton.

Patients, CEO and mayor among dozens of supporters in attendance for emotional celebration

Motioning towards the vestibule of the Peace Centre in downtown Moncton, Dr. Susan Crouse said the original Salvus Clinic would have fit inside.

"It was about half the size," said Crouse, addressing dozens of supporters, officials and people who use the clinic.

"We saw patients there for two years."

But now, 10 years later, the clinic, still at the Peace Centre, has a waiting room, offices, four examination rooms, a meeting room and its own wheelchair-accessible bathroom. More space than Crouse could have imagined when she co-founded the clinic with an eye toward treating people with no other options.

"I absolutely love it," she said. 

"The characters that we meet on a day-to-day basis are amazing, and you never know what the day is going to bring when you leave for work on the morning."

Salvus serves people in the community who are homeless, have mental health or addiction issues, or just living on the fringes of society. From the beginning, Crouse said, the focus of the clinic was on more than medical care.

"It's a warm inviting atmosphere," she said. "We have cookies, coffee … we have a clothes bin, where they can find clothing, we have showers through the Peace Centre, we have people to attend to housing needs."

As Crouse finished her speech, she received a standing ovation. More speakers stepped up to the podium, including employees and patients of the clinic. 

Tammy Clements has been both. She described her first encounter with the Salvus Clinic years ago, when she was struggling with drug issues.

"They saw something in me I could never see or believe," Clements said through tears.

Before long, she was asked to be the clinic's secretary. 

She describes thinking, "Really, I don't have a Grade 8 education.'"

While office work didn't turn out to be her strong suit, Clements told the audience about the support she received, and how through Salvus helped her find a career as a housing support specialist.

"It's hard to say how grateful I am."

Teddy LeBlanc, a patient who sat in the front row during the celebration, estimated he's been coming to Salvus for eight years.

"It's got everything I need … basically everything that makes me who I am, better than I was before I got here."

While the mood was one of hope, the crowd took a moment to remember people from the Salvus community who have  died.

"When you're homeless, it cuts a lot of time off your life people," Crouse said.

The loss can be heartbreaking, she said.

"But we're committed to being with them for whatever they choose because it is their life, and they have the ability and the right to make decisions."

The clinic now serves 1,900 patients. It's funded by Horizon Health, the Department of Social Development, and grants and donations.

Crouse hopes to increase mental health services at the clinic in the new year.