When Judy Downey landed in Edmonton six years ago to supervise the City’s Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board, she had no idea how many lives she would touch with that very big heart of hers.
Today, she’s living proof that a basic faith in the goodness of people and an endless willingness to help them when they’re down is a winning combination for a wonderful life.
She is likely the happiest City of Edmonton employee there is.
Judy and her staff work out of an 118th Avenue storefront office, providing information to both tenants and landlords about the laws and regulations pertaining to residential tenancy. All told, they connect with an average of 29,000 clients a year, either by phone or personally.
“Very quickly after starting work, I realized that a large proportion of our clients were in some form of crisis when they phone or walk in our front door.
“It could be a mom with children whose husband has left town, saddling her with utility bills and rent she couldn’t pay. It could be a member of the working poor faced with an awful choice between paying rent and buying food for the family,” she says.
“Many of our clients are faced with soon-to-be or already-lost accommodation, and they’re without options…they just don’t know what’s available.”
Realizing that she was in a position to help lots of needy people, Judy began networking with an incredibly wide variety of government, community and non-profit agencies involved in housing, poverty and family protection.
Over time, she’s forged a huge network of between 50 and 60 agencies, internal City units and external organizations like Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Works, Catholic Social Services, immigrant-serving agencies and so many more.
Whenever she sees or hears about a client in need of accommodation or emergency help of other kinds, Judy picks up her phone and gets busy, making arrangements that almost always end with a huge relief in the lives of people living with gargantuan levels of stress.
“Life can bring you to your knees in a moment,” she says, “and when it does, it’s really important to connect with someone who cares.”
“Most people don’t want to be victims. They just don’t know how to dig themselves out of their situation.”
With her big heart beating, her network at her fingertips and the constant presence of her cell phone, Judy is a very busy person.
“I love my job. I don’t ever want to turn anyone away.
“People deserve to have a chance in life.”
It’s for this attitude and the incredible help she’s brought to so many families and individuals in need that Judy won the 2014 City Manager’s Award of Excellence in Customer Service.
Landlord & Tenant Board supervisor Judy Downey has build an incredible social service support network for people who are either homeless, or just about to be.