From poverty to possibility



The challenges of poverty in LA Country are deeply rooted and large-scale. At Specialty Family Foundation, we concentrate our philanthropic investments on core areas that address pressing challenges in underserved communities, provide clear pathways out of poverty, and offer significant potential for progress: Catholic education, housing, and substance use treatment and intervention.


Reimaging Our Communities’ Catholic Schools

Access to a quality education is a human right, a necessary step in the journey out of poverty, and our largest historic investment area to date. Catholic schools have long provided quality access to LA’s inner-city children, with tens of thousands of low-income students currently enrolled in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. We are proud to work with local partners to reimagine these schools for growth and increased impact during a time where privately funded neighborhood schools face financial pressure and risk of closure.

Specialty Family Foundation is in a unique position to help struggling Catholic schools in key ways. Catholic education was our first passion, and has been our largest and most impactful area of investment to date. Since 2006, we have directed more than $21 million to help under-funded Catholic schools strengthen their leadership, outreach, and programs. In 2020, we identified the following goals and funding priorities to guide our impact over the next five years:

  • Increase academic capacity
  • Build effective leadership and governance
  • Expand business capacity
  • Improve research, data, and transparency
  • Transition to a whole-child approach

Strengthening Catholic Schools

Our $9.2 million Catholic Education initiative launched with the goal of increasing business capacity, quality, and viability of 27 Catholic schools serving under-resourced populations.

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Building an Inner-city STEM Network

SFF launched a $390,000 investment to fund a STEM Director for the Department of Catholic Schools. This leader has been instrumental in creating a STEM Network.

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“This is an amazing partnership that has allowed us to provide our teachers and students opportunities to collectively grow and engage as lifelong learners. We are transforming the learning experience for our students and closing the achievement and opportunity gap for the community we serve.”

—Karina Mendez,
Principal, St. Turibus School


Opening Doors to the Most Vulnerable

We believe that housing is a human right. A stable, safe home is essential in supporting healthy family structures, and in providing for the whole child — with space to thrive academically, emotionally, and physically. With a home to call their own, families have the opportunity to break free of conditions that contribute to persistent poverty.

Every day, a growing number of people and families live in their cars or on the streets. In response to this reality, in 2020 Specialty Family Foundation incorporated Housing as a new focus area of philanthropic investment. Over the next five years, we intend to invest $5,000,000 with the ultimate goal of getting people off the streets and into affordable, safe, and stable homes.

As part of this effort, Specialty Family Foundation invests in organizations and programs that focus on housing preservation and homelessness prevention for LA County’s most vulnerable children, foster care youth, transitional age youth, and families. We additionally seek solution providers who offer complete wrap-around services that address substance use disorder, mental illness, and unemployment. Our investments will work to support targeted, innovative strategies aimed at:

  • Establishing best practices and policies in housing
  • Identifying areas with the highest level of impact
  • Creating lasting, systemic change
  • Expanding organizational capacity
  • Focusing on prevention as well as intervention

Safe Housing Leads to More Stability

Safe Place for Youth (SPY) was awarded $25,000 to help fund the newly hired Housing Program Manager. SPY has since connected 129 young people to interim housing.

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Keeping Familes Together

SFF invested $50,000 in the One Roof program designed to keep families together and change the trajectory of youth confronting housing insecurity.

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*Greater Los Angeles Homeless County 2020. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

“The journey out of poverty and ending the cycle of drug addiction, mental illness, unemployment, and ultimately the housing crisis, begins with each person having a roof over their head.”

—Dan Estes & Tiann Ortiz,
Specialty Family Foundation


When Families Recover, So Do Communities

Substance use disorder is one of the most complex and intractable contributors to persistent poverty. In one year alone, over 50,000 people in LA County were treated for substance use. *Many of those who struggle with addiction confront other interconnected challenges, including homelessness and mental illness. To break the cycle of addiction and poverty, we must invest in novel approaches to substance use intervention, prevention, and treatment for the whole family. Because where there is recovery, there is also healing and hope.

Specialty Family Foundation recognizes the role substance use plays in intergenerational poverty, incarceration, and homelessness. To meet this interconnected challenge, substance use treatment and intervention is one of our key focus areas for future investments.

Recovery for the Whole Family

SFF has invested $100,000 annually since 2009 to support Prototypes’ innovative Mother and Child Residential Program that take a whole-family approach to treatment.

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Innovative Approach to Early Intervention

Our annual $100,000 investment in SHIELDS’ Heros & Sheros Youth Development Program helps children of parents stabilize their homes and break the cycle of addiction.

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Of the 50,252 people in LA County admitted for substance use treatment:

“Addiction is a family disease and we should be moving forward a generation of children that never ever have to experience substance abuse in their lives. By providing family centered treatment, we can make that happen.”

—Dr. Kathryn Icenhower, PhD,
CEO, Shields for Families