Helping the homeless, one massage at a time

Spa de la Rue offers free treatments in natural medicine to make a difference

Spa de la Rue, an organization aiming to offer comfort and a little break to those in need, has offered more than 10,000 treatments since opening its doors in June 2012.

Spa de la Rue offers various spa treatments to the homeless.
Spa de la Rue offers various spa treatments to the homeless.

Several times a month, the Spa de la Rue team transforms community centres in and outside of Montreal, such as the Accueil Bonneau and the Maison du Père Shelter, into day spas. Offering massage therapies, osteopathy treatments, foot care, active listening, dietary advice and more, the organization opens its doors to people who could never afford those types of treatments otherwise. Before treatments, clients meet with the clinic supervisor to assess their needs based on their ailments.

When they are first offered treatments destitute people always refuse, said Gérard Piquemal, the spa’s founder. However, as volunteers cater to them and get to know them, the clients slowly open up. Piquemal said about 80 per cent of the people who are massaged once will come back for more treatments. This creates a stable customer base and allows for the development of personalized bonds between the therapists and clients, he said.

The idea of offering spa treatments to homeless people came to Piquemal when he was still employed as a massage therapist at a distinguished spa in Tremblant. After a day of work, he met an old man in a park whose hands were ravaged by arthritis. As Piquemal massaged him, the old man noticed the positive effects of the treatment, and told Piquemal that if he really wanted to be useful, he should not be working in a spa, but in the park.

Piquemal established a team of volunteers composed of professional therapists, students graduating in massage therapy and experienced massage coordinators to start Spa de la Rue.

The alternative medicine offered at Spa de la Rue allows clients to relieve tension, reduce back pain and improve their well-being, among other benefits.

For Piquemal, Spa de la Rue doesn’t just benefit the patients, but also the volunteers who go out of their comfort zone by learning to work on any and all body types. The founder said that not only do they gain confidence in their work, but experience the positive, immediate results and gratitude, given back from their patients.

The organization receives free essential and massage oils from Zayat Aroma. Nonetheless, for the founder, the main challenge the organization is facing is its lack of funding. Because of this, they are unable to offer as many treatments as they would like.  While natural medicine seems to work well for arthritis and osteoarthritis, which affects many homeless people, the founder said they are not able to offer enough massages to make serious physical changes.

With their current success with the homeless population in Quebec, Spa de la Rue is also expanding their branches to different locations in France.

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