Eulogy for Michael Schmitt
From Executive Director, Gael Gilbert:
Good morning. My name is Gael Gilbert, I’m the Director of Supportive Housing of Waterloo, and am honoured to speak about Michael on behalf of SHOW. I first met him in early 2012 when he chose our agency as one that matched his personal commitment to work toward ending homelessness for the most marginalized in our community. As an Out of the Cold volunteer here at St. Louis, he understood that the need for housing, the need for often very intensive supports to maintain housing, was a challenge he wanted to assist SHOW in meeting. Mike worked tirelessly on behalf of our tenants in an effort to understand their stories, to learn as much as he could about the systemic roots of marginalization, the histories of poverty, family dysfunction, mental illness and addictions so that he could champion our work and be their advocate in the community. Michael brought to me and to our board best practices from other agencies and it was not unusual for him to mention that the YMCA had an excellent process in dealing with an issue, or Hospice Waterloo was a model in an area from which we could learn, he was very passionate about the work we all do in this community. He was also of the opinion that if only Catholic principals ran this Region, all of its’ issues would be resolved. I knew when Michael joined the SHOW board that he was sharing his life with myeloma and he gave me permission to be his Jewish mother, I would often check in with him about his health. So committed to his role as our board chair, on a stay in hospital some months ago he determined that if he was unable to get to a board meeting, he would arrange a room at Grand River and the board would meet there. He gave SHOW 7 years of compassion, guidance, dedication and courage. In the face of our ongoing funding challenges, he was tireless in his advocacy on our behalf, in the face of his health challenges, he refused to bow down. He and I walked from Waterloo Square to Kitchener City hall for the United Way campaign launch in September, we walked slowly each step an effort for him but he insisted on finishing. He taught me many invaluable lessons about facing our dragons and never giving up. Deb, Kate, our hearts ache for you and your family, I know the magnitude of his loss on this community but you, his family, meant everything to him, he was a most exceptional man. Our new housing has been renamed Mike’s Place in his honour and I know he and his legacy will live in our hearts forever.