Tributes to Michael Savage: Founding Board Member of SHOW

Who was Michael Savage and What did SHOW Mean to Him?
Written by Michael’s wife of over 45 years, Cathie Stewart Savage

My husband, Michael Savage, did not have an easy childhood. Like many of the tenants that live at 362 Erb Street West, he grew up in an abusive home with a lot of substance use fuelling the behaviour that so deeply affected him through his life.

Unlike many of the tenants we have, Mike was blessed with having an extended family that did their best to mitigate his childhood trauma, while emotionally supporting and helping him to grow into the wonderful man I met and fell in love with.

In the early 90’s Mike was invited to speak in a number of large American cities where homelessness was prevalent. On his return to Canada, he was surprised to see that we too had a problem with homelessness. At that time the government of Ontario had cut welfare funds, closed psychiatric care facilities and, in turn, there was a huge increase in people who were experiencing chronic homelessness. When we heard about an opportunity to explore opening an Out of the Cold program in Kitchener Waterloo, he was very eager to explore how our community could help.

Mike was a very active participant as we started the program in 1998 with four churches. He found he had much in common with the men and women who were coming in and really wanted to be able to offer the type of help that he had been able to receive when he was younger. When a suggestion to provide supportive housing to people experiencing homelessness was brought to our church council, he was one of the first to jump on board. He was a part of the group that approached other faith groups to form a plan to make “Housing First” happen in Waterloo.

He was a member at large of the first initiative that failed, and then became one of the founding Board Members of SHOW. He was a part the initial fundraising team, and helped choose the very first tenants to move into this permanent supportive housing building.  He helped to define the supports provided and he continued to interact with those first tenants as they learned what it was to be securely housed – some of them for the first time in their lives.

I vividly remember the first open house that was held the day before tenants were to move in. Mike kept touching the walls, and with tears in his eyes, he thanked God that he could be a part of bringing this little piece of justice to 30 people who had been so hurt by their circumstances.

I am incredibly proud that I was able to join the staff at SHOW after Mike retired from the Board. 

Mike died way too young, but in his short life, he touched so many souls in such good ways. He will be a part of who I am forever and, I believe, a part of him will also be watching over the tenants at SHOW forever.