By Betsy Piland - October 26th, 2020
If you find yourself strolling through beautiful downtown Boulder, Colorado, be sure to keep an eye out for Jennifer Livovich. She’ll be the one chatting with friends old and new, and giving out bags of food and personal care items to members of the city’s homeless community.
Experience Into Action
Stemming from her own experience with homelessness and a subsequent case of frostbite, Livovich knew how dangerous winter can be for homeless communities – and how she could help. Livovich launched the Save-A-Toe initiative to provide on-the-ground support for unhoused individuals. “I wanted to give back to the community that I was once a part of and am still very connected to,” she says.
Livovich said that people focus on the part of her life where she was homeless, but what many don’t realize is that for the majority of her life, she was housed. She grew up in Indiana, in an upper-middle-class family, where the value of an education was instilled in her from a young age.
When she was ready for college, Livovich enrolled at Indiana University, where she planned to study business, and eventually make her way to law school. But a series of life events left her homeless for several years. Now back on her feet, her experiences have influenced the direction of her education and career; she’s now enrolled in CSU Global’s Bachelor’s in Human Services program.
“I absolutely love to learn. And I feel it’s imperative, with my lived experience … that I also have the education to back myself up in terms of credibility,” says Livovich. “I want to continue my education so I can learn more effective ways of helping to support this population, whether it be in housing or supportive services.”
Along with her CSU Global education, Livovich frequently conducts informational interviews with local social service representatives, as well as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) staff in Washington, DC. She’s developed a rapport with members of the community, as well as customers who stop in at the convenience store where she works.
On top of work, school, and her Save-A-Toe outreach work, Livovich recently ran for a spot on Boulder’s Housing Advisory Board. “The people on these boards usually hold esteemed positions, like architects or lawyers – and then here’s me,” Livovich says with a laugh. While disappointed that she missed the board appointment by just one vote, Livovich says that she’s grateful for the outpouring of community support she received during her campaign.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” she says, of finding donors. But her combination of flexibility and lived experiences allow her style outreach to be unique. “I specifically ask for things that are uncommon to food pantries,” she says. “I want the unhoused community members of Boulder to feel special.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Livovich plans to enroll in a graduate degree program. “I’m not 100 percent sure which direction I’m going, but I know that I’m going to continue to move forward. I’m looking for something that’s innovative, something that’s really going to allow me to hone in on this population and community development.”
Livovich’s next step? She’s making it official and forming her own 501(c)(3) organization – Feet Forward: Peer Supportive Services and Outreach – to help those who are experiencing or are at-risk of homelessness in Boulder. Naturally, the organization’s first program will be Save-A-Toe.
For more information about Save-A-Toe, visit the Facebook group.
Betsy Piland is CSU Global’s Communications Manager. She’s worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years, in industries ranging from healthcare to horticulture. When not crafting content for all things higher ed, she’s digging in the garden, sharing unsolicited pictures of her cat and dog, and enjoying Colorado’s outdoor activities with her family.